Category Archives: Future

What does the future hold for us?

The Grand Experiment

It’s been two years since the three nuclear reactors melted down at Fukushima, the direct result of their emergency generators being swamped by a tsunami, resulting in loss of cooling.  But also the result of man being arrogant with respect to his ability to control the nuclear genie.

After two years, the levels of radiation in Tokyo continue to rise, and over here in the United States, snow still has twice the normal background radiation levels in some areas.  The atmosphere is now more radioactive than it was during the height of atmospheric nuclear bomb testing.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from around 250 parts per million a hundred years ago to around 380 parts per million today.  I had hoped, as we ran out of fossil fuels, that would taper off, but now with all the recent large “tight oil” discoveries, combined with technology for extracting it, directional drilling and hydrological fracturing, or fracking, there appears to be no end in sight, at least during my lifetime.

It does appear that this is an experiment we are determined to do, find out just how resilient this planet is.  It is an experiment I wish that we were not undertaking.

Humans need energy, and more energy available to us translates into a better standard of living.  A good standard of living for all of humankind is something we would  prefer. Is it a choice between global poverty and trashing our environment?

The original design for the Fukushima nuclear plant called for the emergency generators to be built upon a hill where they may have survived the tsunami without being swamped.  There is still a question of whether wiring would have survived, pumps survived, etc, but had the plant been built as originally designed, there is at least the possibility there might not be three melted reactors there now.

There is a nuclear plant on the California coast, approximately mid-way between Los Angeles and San Diego.  Like Japan, a seismically unstable region, but with two huge cities (that have for all intents and purposes grown together) surrounding it. We have the potential for a disaster very similar to what happened in Japan to happen here.  It seems highly likely that it’s just a matter of time.

The only thing that really matters to corporations is making money and that usually means doing things in the cheapest way possible, even if it does endanger tens of millions of people.

People say that renewable energy isn’t economically competitive.  The thing is nuclear and fossil fuels only are because they’re not being done in safe and environmentally responsible ways.  There are inherently safe reactor designs, designs you can turn the coolant off and nothing bad happens, reactors that will burn the actinides produced by conventional reactors eliminating the very long term wastes, but these are expensive, and so they don’t get built.

BP, the reason we had that big spill in the gulf was that the proper casings for that kind of oil pressure cost more and so they opted to go with what was cheap, before you consider the cost to the environment and the clean-up costs, which are nowhere near enough to REALLY clean it up.

If the oil and nuclear industry actually did things in safe environmentally friendly ways, they would not be cost efficient with respect to sustainable energy sources.  In real terms, when you include the costs to our environment, the costs to human health, the cost of waste disposal, etc, renewable sustainable energy sources are cost effective.

We really need to find a way to alter our economic system such that the true cost of energy production, food production, etc, is attributed to each producer.  If the costs of producing electricity using coal included for example, all the additional deaths from all the mercury and radon and other pollutants that get pumped into the air, and the health care costs prior to death that coal produced, then it would no longer be cheap and more sane alternatives would prevail.

There is a lot of misinformation being brandied about with respect to renewable energy sources.  Solar and Wind are intermittent and therefor can’t contribute to base power, some form of backup power is needed, and since nuclear and coal can’t be rapidly increased or decreased, that usually means gas or hydro where it is available, and hydro has it’s own environmental problems or so they say, fish they say can’t make the fish ladders, even though they did fine for decades prior to the modern era of over fishing and oxygen depleted streams because everyone has to have the perfect lawn.

Germany has proven that these sources can in fact make a much larger contribution to the grid if they are geographically dispersed.  Here in the United States, we have much larger landmass to geographically disperse them over.  However, there are deficiencies in our grid, or should I saw grids, that make this problematic.  Most of our long distance transmission lines are radiatively lossy AC lines.  If we changed all lines longer than about 300km over to DC high voltage, we’d lose a lot less power to radiation, and this would make it feasible to intertie the East and West grids because DC interties would eliminate the issue of phasing.  It would also eliminate 60 Hz radiation and the leukemia that is associated with it.  It would also give those lines immunity to solar flares and coronal mass ejections.  In the process of making it possible for solar and wind to contribute a greater amount of power to the grid, converting these long lines to DC would have all of these other benefits.  Existing lines converted to DC could also carry more power because they’re carrying the maximum current and voltage all the time instead of just during a portion of the AC cycle.

However, there is another renewable that can contribute base load power 24×7, and that’s geothermal power.  Nuclear decay and to some degree fission, occurring naturally in the Earth’s core produce heat that is trying to escape to the surface.  There is more than enough geothermal resources to supply all of our electrical needs.

When you turn on anything electric or start your car, don’t you feel a small twinge of guilt?  Wouldn’t it be good to not have to feel that, to be able to flip on a light switch, or turn up the heat, or the A/C if you’re in a hot climate, and not feel bad about it knowing that your energy is coming from an environmentally friendly source?

I’d rather not do the grand experiment and not continue to dump carbon dioxide into the air and not continue to turn the planet into a large nuclear waste dump.

Oil / Gas / Fracking

Recent shale oil discoveries make it appear that we won’t see peak oil for decades to come.  It’s turning out that oil reservoirs known as seeps tend to contain relatively small portions of oil compared to the source rock below them and a combination of horizontal drilling and hydrological fracturing (fracking) has given us the ability to access the source rock oil and gas.

I knew it was likely there would be more hydrocarbons to be found somewhere simply by the amount and thickness of the carbon dioxide atmosphere on Venus.  Venus is a planet similar to Earth in size, but with an atmosphere of almost pure carbon dioxide 99 times as dense as Earth’s.  That suggested a similar amount of carbon is present on our planet and since it’s not in the atmosphere, it must be stored in some other form, as buried hydrocarbons or carbonates, and the latter, at sufficient temperature, pressure, and in the presence of iron, tends to become hydrocarbons.

For those of you who want to keep driving your SUVs and Hummers around it’s great news, for the rest of us that want to breath, drink water that is uncontaminated, and not persevere constant low grade earth quakes, not so good.  Natural gas supplies will be abundant, unfortunately they’ll be laced with radon gas.  If you smoke and figure on dying of lung cancer anyway, no big deal, but for the rest of us, not good.

The supplies of hydrocarbons may be huge, but the supply of atmosphere hasn’t increased one bit.  It would appear now that we are destined to find out truly how resilient the planet is.  Will the ocean warm enough for methane hydrates to release their methane and cause a runaway effect or not?  How much will increased plant growth sink the extra carbon dioxide we’re putting into the atmosphere?  We don’t know, but looks like we’re going to find out.

Those of you who enjoy shell fish, better get used to doing without because as the quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere continue to increased, so does the percentage dissolved in the ocean forming carbolic acid which dissolves the shells of shellfish.

This creates a situation globally where only by mutual consent of all nations will we have a chance to do anything about it.  We all share the same atmosphere, that means the negative consequences of burning these newly accessible hydrocarbons will affect us all.  But only the nations that do so will benefit economically.  So if Germany, a country that recently has been relatively ecologically conscious, chooses not to access shale deposits in their country, they still suffer from what the US, England, and other countries that do produce oil from shale contribute to the atmosphere.  All they gain is not benefiting economically.  If history is any guide, we’ll not come to any sort of global agreement.

It does devalue oil as a commodity to the point where maybe we will be ever so less likely to attack Iran for it’s oil, so there is one minor benefit.  I was really hoping we’d come to some state of sanity by necessity, switch to sustainable energy sources as a matter of survival.  Now that looks unlikely.

Yellowstone


[embedplusvideo height=”478″ width=”800″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/o-zM8IQHVzI?fs=1&hd=1″ vars=”ytid=o-zM8IQHVzI&width=800&height=478&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep6775″ /]

We’ve got this huge energy problem. We’ve got this huge energy source, which, left to it’s own devices will release it’s energy violently, killing millions, rendering most of the United States uninhabitable, and altering weather globally causing a huge failure of crops and mass starvation.

Right now we’ve got a moratorium on tapping geothermal energy in national parks.  I think we ought to make an exception to this for Yellowstone, both for the energy it could provide and because whatever heat, however insignificant, we can remove from that magma chamber, which is enormous, might possibly delay a super-eruption.

David Houle – Shift Age – I Disagree

They’ve got David Houle on Coast to Coast AM tonight, a futurist.  The just of his take on things is that we’ve exited the information age and are entering what he calls the shift age. I disagree that we’ve exited the information age even though I agree that we’re also entering an age of major shifts.  The information age is just cranking up, it’s nowhere near the peak let alone past it.

He uses the analogy of the industrial age. While agreeing that the industrial age is a good analog, I believe he is missing a major point.  Most heavy industry has left this country and moved to where labor and energy are cheap.  The industrial age hasn’t ended, it’s just left the United States and moved into China and India.

Here is where the metaphor is more applicable.  In the industrial revolution, as machine power replaced human power, there was a great displacement of labor.  The machine power meant things could be manufactured less expensively but it displaced much of the labor force.  New people were needed to maintain, design, build, and deploy machines but the displaced labor was not trained to do these things.  So you had unemployed people at the same time you had unfilled openings until people could become trained in the new technology.

The information age, instead of replacing human physical labor, power, with machine power, replaces human intelligence with machine intelligence.  We are experiencing exactly what we experienced in the industrial revolution, high unemployment even though there are also many unfilled positions.  Displaced workers are not trained in the new technology and it will take time and an investment in education.

We are a long way from a mature information age. Only relatively simple tasks have been automated. There remains much more human labor to be replaced with machines. The rate which that can happen is limited by the lack of people trained in new technology.

As people get trained in these new technologies and the new technological positions are filled, we’ll see a great acceleration in productivity and a reduction in the cost of doing most things which will result in higher levels of prosperity. The new jobs will be more challenging and less mundane.

Energy is a problem that needs to be solved, artificial brawn and artificial brains requires considerable energy.  Hydraulic fracturing, “fracking”, will provide a short-term fix for this in the United States and probably in China, but to date Europe is resisting this because of ecological concerns (which are entirely valid, we should have concerns here too).   This may mean little or no growth in the European economy while the US economy grows, but it also means they won’t be dealing with the issues of contaminated groundwater and radon contamination of natural gas supplies that we will as the result of fracking, and the sustainable energy sources they put in place won’t crash when the tight oil runs out.

Our decision to place economic concerns above ecological concerns means that we will probably see some of the manufacturing that has moved overseas return as foreign labor markets saturate while our energy costs, relative to foreign supplies drop.  That’s not to say they will drop in real terms, it is to say they will inflate faster where fracking is not employed and supplies of conventional “loose” oil run out.  European investment in renewable energy sources will benefit them in the long run as tight oil exhausts.

I speculate that as we clamp down on freedom more and more in this country, creativity will suffer and that’s going to dampen our productivity.  How far this goes really depends on how much loss of freedom and infringement of privacy the American citizen is willing to tolerate.  So far it seems we’ll tolerate quite a bit because there isn’t a constitutional amendment left that hasn’t been gutted.

Child labor laws that restrict child labor under 16, have also spelled the end to craftsmanship because they prevent effective apprenticeships.  Take away the ability of a child to learn a craft when their brains are still highly malleable and their parents still young and functional enough to teach it and chances are they will never learn it.  This is already reflected in society with mass produced crap replacing high quality hand built items.  How often do you find something like a nice carved wood railing or a hand carved cabinet?  When you do it’s because we’ve either got some guy who is 110 years old still practicing his craft, or we’ve imported a craftsman or product from nations where it is still possible to have apprenticeships.

As I see it, we have four big problems we have to solve.  Food production has to be sustainable. Current petrochemical dependent methods requiring oil based fertilizers, oil based pesticides, oil based mechanized harvesting, and oil based transportation is only sustainable as long as the oil lasts.  The way we use water for agriculture is not sustainable, we need to get away from sprinklers and turn towards controlled drip irrigation. We need to plant crops appropriate for the climate instead of trying to turn desert into swamps.

We need an educational system that prepares our population for the new high tech jobs that are available.  Our quality of life would also improve if we found a way to allow apprenticeships again so that crafts could be passed down from generation to generation.

We need a sustainable energy to replace fossil fuels.  This likely won’t come from any one source.  We need to ramp up every sustainable source as fast as we can and eliminate our reliance on oil.  We will need oil for chemical feedstock and if we burn it all up for energy we won’t have it for those needs.

We need to put individual responsibilities back to the individual and get them out of the hands of big brother.  Stop putting in more cameras, stop mandating a gazillion ridiculous safety requirements that insurance company lobbyists keep pushing for, wrestle healthcare out of the insurance industry and put it back in the hands of health care professionals.  We need to pass some serious privacy legislation that stops Google and other big data miners from collecting huge amounts of information about each of us.

We need to stop wasting resources squabbling over limited resources remaining on this planet.  We used more oil in the Iraqi war each year than Iraq was producing,  The only people who benefited from that war was the military industrial complex.

If we continue down the path we’re on, it’s just a matter of time until starvation becomes widespread, and a huge population crash results.  If we seriously invest in renewable energy now, before the tight oil runs out, then we have some chance at sustaining our population beyond that point.

We need to invest more in pure science, the kind of science that increases our real understanding of the universe we are part of, that which can lead to real breakthroughs that can help us do things like mine the asteroids for resources in short supply on this planet, or find ways to make interstellar travel possible. There are many new things still waiting to be discovered.

What Will The Higgs Mean?

When electromagnetic theory was formulated and radio waves discovered, they were viewed as an interesting laboratory phenomena with no useful purpose, but now they give us radio and television, radar, microwave ovens, cellular phones, emergency response, remote controlled gizmos of every kind, and much more. Quantum mechanics has given us the transistor, solar cells, the laser, the heads in your hard drive, cell phones, and many other things.

So what ultimately will the Higgs give us?  The experimental confirmation of the Higgs boson gives us proof of the Higgs field.  The Higgs field is what couples mass to other particles.  This is just wild speculation at this point but suppose we learn how to control or manipulate this field, what does that mean?  Well, it could mean the ability to uncouple mass from matter.  If we could make ordinary matter massless, then it would take zero energy to accelerate it to the speed of light.  That would make Interstellar travel to at least nearby star systems possible.  Combined with Warp technology, and yes, this is actually being worked on now, effective faster-than-light travel may even be possible.

If we could couple and uncouple mass at will, imagine a wheel with weights on it, when the weights approach the bottom of the wheel we uncouple the mass, when they reach the top, we recouple it, energy from gravity. Transportation and shipping would become essentially free from an energy perspective.  Without expending energy, we wouldn’t need to create pollution in the process of creating that energy.  Lifting something to Earth orbit or entirely out of Earth’s gravitational influence would become trivial, and with that the colonization and exploitation of space.  Our planet would not have to be scarred for mineral wealth if we could economically tap the millions of asteroids in orbit around our sun.

These seem like the obvious benefits of learning how to control or manipulate this field, but just as with electromagnetic or quantum effects, undoubtedly there are applications none of us can even dream of now.

Human DNA

The newagers have been predicting humans with more than the standard two strands to their DNA for some time.  They make out like it will be a good thing, giving us new capabilities.

To my great surprise,  DNA with more than two strands (four stranded DNA) has been found in human cells recently.  It doesn’t appear to bring anything good however as the four stranded DNA has been found mainly in human cancer cells.

Still, I find it interesting that something seemingly impossible predicted has come to pass.  Perhaps courtesy of Fukushima we’ll be seeing a lot more four stranded human DNA.

It does make me wonder what else will come and hopefully some of it will be positive.

Back in the early 80’s when video cassette recorders were a new thing, I was shown a tape of an army officer, and I’m sorry I do not remember either his rank or his name, but he was somewhat up there on the food chain, and he made some interesting predictions.

He predicted that the Soviet Union and China would cease to be “credible threats”, useful to control the masses.  He stated that the next big thing to be used as a threat to control the masses would be terrorism.  Well, that certainly has come to pass.  But he also stated that in time terrorism would lose it’s credibility as an external threat and cease to be effective as a method to control the masses, so after terrorism the next thing we’d see is a faked alien (as in extraterrestrial) invasion.  Haven’t seen that one yet, but hey just something to keep your eyes open for.

Post End Of the World

Now that we’ve made it past the projected end of the world, I suppose it’s time to consider where do we go from here.  And those of you who were counting on Apophis, NASA has nailed the orbit down enough to know it will miss the Earth on the two next passes.

When I look back at the last 40 years, some things have changed and some haven’t.  There were no home computers in 1972, or all the computerized gadgets, no cellular phones let alone smartphones, no big screen TV’s, no video games, no CDs or DVDs.

There were no body searches just to take an airplane flight, no black list, fireworks were legal, we could actually celebrate our freedoms on the 4th of July, or New Years, or just whenever we felt the urge.  Long distance used to hugely expensive, overseas calls could be $15-$30 per minute.  You used to be able to have a wide choice in telephones, a model M500 desk phone, a “Princess” phone, or a “Trimline” phone.

It seems to me that one invention, the Integrated Circuit, is about 99% responsible for all the new technologies and changes to existing technologies, other than some rather modest incremental improvements.  Integrated circuits made central processing units and semi-conductor memory possible, which in turn made computers and their cousins, the microprocessor and digital signal processor possible.  These things made Smartphones, CD and DVD players, modern digital televisions, VOIP telephony which made long distance basically free, and much more.

So what will be the next big thing, the breakthrough technology that will make the next 50 years new gadgets possible?

And will the march away from freedom, the total annulment of the US Constitution, the march towards globalization, the continued increase in disparity between the wealthiest and the rest of the population, continue?  Or is it a pendulum that has swung too far in one direction and in time will swing the other way?  I sure hope so.  One thing totalitarian governments seem to be good at is suppressing creativity.

We’ve become a people that have become so obsessed with safety that we’ve become willing to trade everything else for it.  And yet, our obsession with it isn’t really providing it, not real safety.  Look at the 9/11 event, around 3,000 people died in that event.  Our response to that was to invade Iraq, which wasn’t responsible in any way to begin with, and we’ve lost another 4,000 plus US citizens according to official numbers there.  Unofficially we’ve lost more of course, anytime a soldier was seriously wounded, they’d be flown to Germany, and if they die there, they didn’t count against those war casualty numbers.  And that’s just soldiers, which doesn’t count all the security and supply line personnel outsources to private industry.

So our response was really not making us any more safe.  What it did do is gain control over some oil resources and waste a lot of oil.  We burned up more oil in air force operations over Iraq than Iraq produced, so in terms of getting our hands on oil, it was a net loss, but it shorted the world supply, driving prices up, and driving the profits of the oil companies up.

In 1972, I could freely enter and leave Canada, now, even if it weren’t for my crime, a passport would be required. This is all more fake safety.  Legitimate citizens will either just give up and not go, or they’ll go through all these new requirements to enter/leave Canada.  However, the terrorists will just take a boat and go from one port south of the Canadian border to one port North, or the other way around.  No real safety, just restrictions on our freedom.

Whether you believe 9/11 was the work of a bunch of pissed off terrorists, or a false flag operation aimed at getting support for taking away our freedoms, the latter was certainly the result.  So where are we going in the future?

The little RF ID chips we implant in dogs and cats so our lost pets can be returned, how long until they require these in humans?  Or will biometric-identification technologies such as retina scans and fingerprint scans provide the same capability, the absolute elimination of anonymity less invasively?

I used to feel like I had a pretty good feel for where things are going but not anymore.  I could never have anticipated the degree of apathy that exists with respect to our freedoms being taken away, or is it fear?  I don’t know, I just know I didn’t think people would ever allow themselves to be treated this way.

And then technologies, who could have anticipated the Integrated Circuit, all of it’s ramifications, and the incredible densities of electronics that are now possible?  And who can anticipate the next big thing?

I’ve always been fascinated by science and technology and I’m aware of some of the things in the pipeline and there are so many things now, ranging from technologies like nano-diode arrays capable of rectifying millimeter wavelengths that ordinary room temperatures radiate at, allowing background energy to be turned into electricity essentially violating the 2nd law of thermal-dynamics.  Right now it’s just very experimental, tiny chips that generate a few micro-amps of current by drawing heat from it’s surroundings. Even these small currents have applications for things like self-powered biological implants but more than that, they prove that something is flawed with our understanding of thermal dynamics and the assertion that we could never tap background heat or zero-point energy is wrong. How will that play out in the future?

Our understanding of genetics is rapidly evolving.  We used to believe about 97% of DNA was junk, now we know that not to be true, non-encoding DNA has other roles, one major role is to regulate encoding DNA.  We now have a field of epigenetics, we know that although the DNA itself in most cases does not change in response to the environment, there are other molecules attached that can change the expression of that DNA in response to environment.  Moreover, some of those changes can be passed on to future generations through mechanisms that we do not understand presently.  This new understanding of ourselves will no doubt lead to technological breakthroughs in the field of medicine.

I wonder how some of our laws and customs that have changed drastically in the last 100 years will effect our future well being as a species.  It used to be not uncommon to marry daughters off as soon as they reached puberty, now many women are delaying child bearing until their 30’s, putting establishing a career first a priority.  Around 1-in-2000 children born to a woman 16 years old will suffer autism, by 45, that’s around 1-in-20.  The same is true for many other genetic disorders.  By delaying child bearing to later years, we are increasing the rate of harmful genetic mutations being inserted into the human genome.  On the other hand, those that are born to an older woman and who are free of genetic defects are likely born to an individual who has better cellular DNA repair machinery, and in the long run will have an advantage, so perhaps this delayed child bearing ultimately will confer a longer life span on the human race.

The old saying, “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, is in many ways true of many environmental insults we suffer.  Sure it will kill a portion of us, but the world is in no danger of human underpopulation, well at least until we destroy the environment to the point where it can no longer produce enough food to support our numbers.

One big disappointment for me is that after getting to the moon, we just kind of stopped.  American’s curiosity, our fascination with space, science, discovering new things, seems to have evaporated.  It seems now all we care about is, can we make a profit with it?  And for what?  What are we gonna do with that profit?  Buy more cheap foreign made junk?

So I can’t predict where it’s going to go, I can only say where I’d like it to go.  I’d like people to recognize that wars are not, as often stated, always or even frequently religious in nature.  Wars are economic, they got something (like oil), we want it, but the leaders couldn’t get us fired up to go kill to take oil, that would be unethical, so instead they tell us God command it (Reagan, Bush), and our opponents tell their people the same thing, God commanded they kill the infidels, or at least enslave them.  In truth, neither leader believes that, they just want the resources the other side has, but they used God toward their ends.  I’m tired of God being blamed for man’s greed and I hope that, in the future, we come to realize this, and when one of our leaders tells us God told them to go kill someone, we’ll know better and remove that leader from power.

And even though it’s in the past, I happen to think the founders of this country put some pretty good ideas down in the constitution and we really ought to give serious thought to restoring those values.  That’s not to say our forefathers were angels, they certain were not, our constitution tells us all men are created equal, yet, many of them owned slaves.  None the less, the ideas that went into the constitution were good, and I think we should insist that our present government respect them.

I’d like to see our collective curiosity rejuvenated.  Sometimes I wonder if the Internet and all the new electronic gadgets aren’t responsible for it’s demise, because we have access to so much information, we are already in information overload, so going out and looking for more when we have more than we can digest already, the appeal to that is gone.  Yet, when we do real pure science, understand more about our nature and the nature of the universe we inhabit, there are always huge benefits to that.

Craftsmanship seems to be lost in the modern world, replaced by technology.  I’d like to see the two combined.  Most things we buy these days seem to be designed by accountants and marketeers, the aesthetics have much to be desired.

Speaking of marketeers, a very annoying recent trend is a vast increase in phone spam.  I get at least three random sales calls a day, often more, often by automated robots using VOIP telephone facilities.  I noticed that when Microsoft bought Skype, it seemed to take a quantum leap.  Coincidence? Maybe, but one doesn’t have to spend much time in Google to find cases of people being harassed by Skype and other VOIP calls.  The problem I think is that VOIP has made telephony almost as cheap as e-mail.  I don’t know any good fix for this.

There are lot of interesting things happening in the field of controlled hydrogen fusion, some new approaches generating temperatures that would make aneutronic fusion possible.  They haven’t achieved the necessary density yet, but who knows?  That’s one of those game changers, like the invention of the integrated circuit, it would change life as we know it.  I can see a lot of positive ways that things could change, but there are always unintended consequences and I wonder what those might be.

Well, some things to think about.  Goodnight all.

 

December 21st, 2012

I knew I’d be disappointed.  The world didn’t end December 21st as promised, and I’m still here to face the reality that is my life on this planet.  Oh well, it will end sooner or later, either collectively or for me alone, this journey.

I was thinking about why these end of the world theories are so popular, even when they’re totally absurd.  I think there is an appeal to not having to take the trip alone, to journey into the unknown with 8 billion other people is somehow less frightening than making the journey solo.  Of course, as a Christian, my home is for Christ to return and be pulled up into the heavens with Christ, but 2,000 years have passed without that happening yet, odds of it happening within my lifetime are slim.

But then what do odds have to do with it?  When you think of all the things that had to come together just right for life even to exist, let alone the intelligent complex life forms that we are, the odds are infinitesimal, yet, here we are.

It does seem to me since we don’t know how long it will be, and just out of respect for the creator, we ought to be taking better care of this planet than we are.  We’re here now, for how long we don’t know, so best make the best of what we have.

When I think back 40 years ago or so, I expected we would have either nuked ourselves out of existence by now, or we’d be far more advanced in every way, socially, technologically, spiritually, than we actually are.  While technology has improved in some areas, computers for example, it’s stagnated or deteriorated in others.  It’s almost impossible to get a decent stereo or guitar amp anymore for example.

And personal freedom, hell you can’t play music anymore without getting in trouble for being too loud, you can’t celebrate the 4th of July anymore, fireworks are illegal almost everywhere.  And yea, I know people do anyway, but the point is what’s the point of celebrating freedom we don’t have anymore.  The constitution isn’t worth the hemp paper it’s written on these days.

Art Bell used to theorize that people died when things changed so much they could no longer tolerate it anymore.  At times I feel close to that point.

It’s The End of The World (As We Know It)

nibiru-earth-300x206 Finally, it’s just a few hours away, December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar, or at least the end of the current long count.  For reasons which escape me many believe that’s the end of the world.

By which method?

Nibiru

A hypothetical planet that orbits our sun with an extremely elliptical comet-like orbit which crosses the Earth’s orbit causing all sorts of mayhem on it’s close approach, not visible yet.  If it were a comin’ we would have seen it by now.

Pole Shifts

There are two varieties, physical pole shifts where the actual land that was over say, the North pole, suddenly ends up at the equator, and magnetic pole shifts, where the North and South trade places, they threaten our doom, but really are they feasible and if so how threatening are they?

Magnetic

As it happens, magnetic pole shifts have occurred many times throughout Earth’s history and there is no relationships between pole shifts and mass extinction events.  Suggestions that we will die from radiation exposure if the magnetic field suddenly disappears during a pole shift are erroneous.  The Earth’s atmosphere is sufficiently thick that it provides adequate shielding even when no magnetic field is present.  It’s not 100% shielding, but it’s sufficient to limit the level of radiation to which we are exposed to safe levels, unless you’re flying in an aircraft mostly above the atmosphere.  Frequent flyers may get cooked.

Other things that might get cooked are our satellites.  There is already some indication that a magnetic pole shift is under way.  The rate of movement of the North magnetic pole has increased dramatically over the last 100 years and moving itself from Northern Canada towards Siberia, currently averaging 30-40 miles per year.  Also, there is a secondary north pole in the South Atlantic that is nearly as strong as the South pole, and largely cancels the magnetic field over that region. Over that area where there is no significant magnetic field to protect overflying satellites, several have suffered early radiation induced deaths.

So if the field continues to weaken, other similar anomalies pop-up, what we’re likely to see are several effects.  An increase in Aurora over lower latitudes as lines of force and charged particles from the sun that follow them, enter the atmosphere at non-traditional places.  An increase in power line problems as magnetic fields in flux induce huge currents of very low frequency and cook transformers.

Some species of migratory animals which rely on the Earth’s magnetic field for guidance may find themselves in trouble if the change happens too fast for them to adapt.  It could play havoc on human navigation with our GPS satellites cooked and compasses pointing to random locations.  We might have to go back to older technology such as Loran, which relies on fixed point radio transmitters on Earth, or even navigate by the stars.  A rapid pole shift could get exciting but it wouldn’t spell the end to our species.

Physical

There is anecdotal evidence of a physical pole shift in the Bible, where the day was extended, Joshua 10:13-14, and then there are the frozen Wooly Mammoth’s with bit’s of Apple still in their mouths in regions which are now arctic.  Something had to fast freeze them in order that they were frozen before they could even finish the Apple’s they were munching on.

There isn’t a lot of geological evidence for anything rapid; slow continental drift yes, but not in a few seconds or minutes massive drift.  Once you get to a depth of around 500 miles, the mantle is not really in a solid state, more of a super viscous liquid state.  So things can move, but slowly, because the viscosity of the material is very high.

So I’m not holding my breath for the world to end.  I won’t be losing sleep over it tonight.  In fact, I’ll be losing sleep over the fact that it won’t end and I’ll wake up and still have to deal with the realities of life tomorrow.  But those of you who believe it will, write me a check and drop it in the mail, tonight.

The Future Looks Rosy And Warm, And a Bit Shaky, and The Water Tastes Funny

Things are sure looking a lot different today with respect to peak oil, between drilling down and getting to the really deep and seemingly abundant oil, in places like the Gulf of Mexico, where the pressure is huge and bad things happened, and Fracking technology, it looks like we’ve got another 20-25 years before we really have to face the big crunch from a supply standpoint.

I was really hoping oil would price itself out of the market, as painful as that would have been, and we’d move on to something sustainable, or at least less environmentally destructive. But now it looks like we’re going to keep altering our atmosphere and changing the ocean chemistry until every living thing in it, save for some acid loving oxygen hating bacteria that will kick out hydrogen sulfide in great abundance, dies.

It bothers me that they won’t tell us what chemicals they use for fracking.  Guess as long as they get the oil and natural gas and people can go back to driving their Hummers, it really doesn’t matter.  Hell, if you can afford a Hummer you can afford bottled water and the rest of us can just die.