I’ve just finished reading “The Great Influenza,” a book which can make anyone seriously paranoid. It’s a comprehensive history of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. You can’t help but wonder about the possibility of another worldwide viral pandemic.
Just to be clear, I don’t count myself as a “Doomsday Prepper.” Even so, after reading this book, you start to think that making a few preparations might not be such a bad idea. (more…)
To answer the question, “Is it possible to Colonize the Galaxy?”, we need to think about the physics of interstellar travel. Last week we talked about communication, and the thesis that Faster than Light (FTL) communication is a requirement for a meaningful dialog. Receiving radio signals from a technological civilization would certainly change our understanding of the universe, but receiving a message, even if we understand it completely, does not necessarily imply that a meaningful dialog is possible.
I think SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is a wasted effort. Just to be clear, it’s not the concept of Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence that’s a waste, it’s the way it’s being done. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but there is a certain logic.
As I see it, SETI is about two things. First, to find out if advanced, technological civilizations exist, and second, to possibly communicate with them. (more…)
One of the great questions of our time is “Are We Alone?” There are really two parts to this question. The first part is “Does life exist which did not originate on earth?” The second part, perhaps even more important, “Do other intelligent and technological civilizations exist?” The Fermi Paradox is a way of asking, if the aliens are out there, why haven’t we seen some sign?
For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that life does exist on other worlds. It seems a reasonable assumption, given our understanding of chemistry and the evolution of life on earth. We know that life appeared on earth relatively shortly after the formation of our planet. As soon as water, some basic precursor chemicals and energy were available, molecules clumped together to form stable systems that could reproduce themselves. Scientists still debate the exact point where these complex organic assemblies became “life,” but it seems that given the right ingredients and enough time in a stable environment, the result is simple life. (more…)
Recent tropical storm damage in South Carolina, has been labeled by the media as a 1000 year flood. That is totally bogus. While the flood damage was devastating, it was not a once in 1000 year event. Similar catastrophic weather events are becoming common all across the US, and the southeast is no exception. In 1989, hurricane Hugo made landfall in Charleston, South Carolina, with devastating effect. (more…)
Much of the discussion about the long term effects of Climate Change center around various natural disasters. Drought, floods, hurricanes and wildfires are the hot topics. While these direct effects are definitely things to be concerned about, there are several less obvious issues that may well turn out to have more severe and insidious consequences.
Let’s deal with the simple and obvious problems first. Heat waves, which is by far the most lethal weather phenomenon. Europe was introduced to its Climate Change future during the 2003 Heat Wave. There were 70,000 deaths related to this heat wave. In an area with a similar population to the US. 14,000 deaths in France alone. France does not typically have hot summers, so it has a lower installed base of air conditioning. Also, the heat wave happened in August, the peak vacation period in western Europe. All across Europe, the elderly were affected disproportionately. (more…)