Asteroid impact simulation ends with a new hole in Europe

An international exercise to simulate an asteroid striking Earth has come to an end. With just six days to go before a fictitious impact, things don’t look good for a 298 km-wide region between Prague and Munich…

This may sound like a grim role-playing game, but it’s very serious business. Led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies, the asteroid impact simulation is meant to prepare scientists, planners, and key decision makers for the real thing, should it ever occur…

…A key takeaway from this year’s simulation was the dramatic way in which key variables, such as the probable impact area and affected population size, were affected by new observations. At one point, for example, North Africa, the UK, and much of Scandinavia were inside the possible strike zone…

Previous tabletop exercises provided many years of warning time, but not this one. Accordingly, the focus of exercise was geared toward the disaster response and the importance of identifying dangerous asteroids in advance.

RTFA. Be prepared! Even if the only response possible in real time is RUN LIKE HELL!

Self Portrait – Sunday morning

1. Yes, I really do have a neck. Just wearing my hoodie [and Mr.Robot cap underneath], ready to head out for our usual Sunday morning grocery shopping.

2. Returning home, I must note all the nutters out there panic shopping because the world is coming to an end or something equally Trumpian. Cripes! Checking out at Trader Joe’s – well prepared with every available checkout register staffed and the shelves pretty well filled – was a piece of cake. Unlike our first stop on the way into town which had only 2 registers open and half the shelves apparently still cleaned out from Saturday. TJ’s still took a while with middle-class twits and preppers loading up on boxes and boxes of cold cereal and “self-limiting” at 4 dozen eggs per cart. :-]

How do you feed the Whole Earth After the Apocalypse?

❝ How might government prepare for a worst-case scenario?

This is a question Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, began to think about while working on providing low-cost drinking water to the developing world. He found the prospect of disaster terrifying. “This would make us no better off than the dinosaurs, despite all of our technical progress,” he told me. “Humanity is too smart for that.”…

❝ Pearce partnered with David Denkenberger, a research associate at the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. They looked around for detailed existing solutions and found just one: storing lots of food. But that, the two engineers realized, would probably feed the global population for a year or less.

So they developed a set of solutions that they believe would provide five years of food for the Earth’s population, and published a book about it called Feeding Everyone No Matter What. I spoke to Pearce to find out some of the very gooey ways we might survive the apocalypse.

What kinds of disasters do you think about?

❝ Let me take the most likely one: the nuclear winter case…As the world went dark, you’d have a couple of the more hearty crops survive — the trees would last a little while. But our standard crops? Your wheat, your rice, your corn? That’s all dead…As those crops fail, you’ll start to get hungry; you’ll start going into your stored food supplies…There’s no good outcome there. That darkness will basically stay for around five years, until it starts to rain out of the atmosphere and then we’ll slowly but surely get more and more sunlight and start to rejuvenate agriculture again.

❝ There are many things that you can eat that we don’t normally consider food, particularly in the west. Leaves are one of them. You can eat leaves. You just have to be careful about how you do it. Leaves are high in fiber and we can’t digest any more than half of it, but if you chew the leaves and spit out the fiber you can draw out nutrients from it. Or you can make teas…and it goes from there.

From mushrooms to insects, stuff living in the oceans to bacteria, all get their share of providing subsistence for us superior mammals. An interesting read. Especially the bits about items already accepted as food – just not in Dallas.

Earth’s magnetic pole reversal happens all the [geologic] time

Scientists understand that Earth’s magnetic field has flipped its polarity many times over the millennia. In other words, if you were alive about 800,000 years ago, and facing what we call north with a magnetic compass in your hand, the needle would point to ‘south.’ This is because a magnetic compass is calibrated based on Earth’s poles. The N-S markings of a compass would be 180 degrees wrong if the polarity of today’s magnetic field were reversed. Many doomsday theorists have tried to take this natural geological occurrence and suggest it could lead to Earth’s destruction. But would there be any dramatic effects? The answer, from the geologic and fossil records we have from hundreds of past magnetic polarity reversals, seems to be ‘no.’

Reversals are the rule, not the exception. Earth has settled in the last 20 million years into a pattern of a pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it has been more than twice that long since the last reversal. A reversal happens over hundreds or thousands of years, and it is not exactly a clean back flip. Magnetic fields morph and push and pull at one another, with multiple poles emerging at odd latitudes throughout the process. Scientists estimate reversals have happened at least hundreds of times over the past three billion years…

Earth’s polarity is not a constant. Unlike a classic bar magnet, or the decorative magnets on your refrigerator, the matter governing Earth’s magnetic field moves around. Geophysicists are pretty sure that the reason Earth has a magnetic field is because its solid iron core is surrounded by a fluid ocean of hot, liquid metal…The flow of liquid iron in Earth’s core creates electric currents, which in turn create the magnetic field. So while parts of Earth’s outer core are too deep for scientists to measure directly, we can infer movement in the core by observing changes in the magnetic field. The magnetic north pole has been creeping northward – by more than 600 miles (1,100 km) – since the early 19th century, when explorers first located it precisely. It is moving faster now, actually, as scientists estimate the pole is migrating northward about 40 miles per year, as opposed to about 10 miles per year in the early 20th century.

Another doomsday hypothesis about a geomagnetic flip plays up fears about incoming solar activity. This suggestion mistakenly assumes that a pole reversal would momentarily leave Earth without the magnetic field that protects us from solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun. But, while Earth’s magnetic field can indeed weaken and strengthen over time, there is no indication that it has ever disappeared completely. A weaker field would certainly lead to a small increase in solar radiation on Earth – as well as a beautiful display of aurora at lower latitudes — but nothing deadly. Moreover, even with a weakened magnetic field, Earth’s thick atmosphere also offers protection against the sun’s incoming particles.

I couldn’t resist posting this. I know a Christian science teacher who’s stuck into the idea of incoming solar activity roasting us on the playing field of life. I’m not certain if he plans to purchase some kind of anti-radiation suit or just move underground for a couple hundred years.

Gullible enough to fund the next End of Days campaign?


 
The evangelical Christian broadcaster whose much-ballyhooed Judgment Day prophecy went conspicuously unfulfilled on Saturday has a simple explanation for what went wrong — he miscalculated.

Instead of the world physically coming to an end on May 21 with a great, cataclysmic earthquake, as he had predicted, Harold Camping, 89, said he now believes his forecast is playing out “spiritually,” with the actual apocalypse set to occur five months later, on October 21.

Camping, who launched a doomsday countdown in which some followers spent their life’s savings in anticipation of being swept into heaven, issued his correction during an appearance on his “Open Forum” radio show from Oakland, California…

Reflecting on scripture afterward, Camping said it “dawned” on him that a “merciful and compassionate God” would spare humanity from “hell on Earth for five months” by compressing the physical apocalypse into a shorter time frame.

But he insisted that October 21 has always been the end-point of his own End Times chronology, or at least, his latest chronology…

Asked what advice he would give to followers who gave up much or all of their worldly possessions in the belief that his Judgment Day forecast would come true, Camping drew a comparison to the nation’s recent economic slump.

“We just had a great recession. There’s lots of people who lost their jobs, lots of people who lost their houses … and somehow they all survived,” he said.

“People cope, he added. “We’re not in the business of giving any financial advice. We’re in the business of telling people maybe there is someone you can talk to, and that’s God.”

A good bartender will achieve the same effect – for the cost of a couple of beers.

In case you missed it, Doomsday was yesterday!

Reporting from Washington – The crisis began when college basketball fans downloaded a free March Madness application to their smart phones. The app hid spyware that stole passwords, intercepted e-mails and created havoc.

Soon 60 million cellphones were dead. The Internet crashed, finance and commerce collapsed, and most of the nation’s electric grid went dark. White House aides discussed putting the Army in American cities.

That, spiced up with bombs and hurricanes, formed the doomsday scenario when 10 former White House advisors and other top officials joined forces Tuesday in a rare public cyber war game designed to highlight the potential vulnerability of the nation’s digital infrastructure to crippling attack.

The results were hardly reassuring

The public rarely gets a peek at government war games. If Tuesday’s no-cliche-left-behind version at times resembled a sci-fi thriller, no one doubts that the peril to telecommunications and other crucial computer-run systems is real and growing…

Michael Chertoff, who played the national security advisor in the exercise, had some relevant experience to draw on. He headed the Homeland Security Department when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

“We need to know how to deal with this,” Chertoff declared at the start of the session. “The biggest danger,” he added, “is if we’re ineffective…”

John McLaughlin, who was deputy director of the CIA during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, suggested maximizing use of intelligence assets — and perhaps nationalizing electric power companies…

In the end, no grand plan emerged, but the group did agree to advise the president to federalize the National Guard, even if governors objected, and deploy the troops — perhaps backed by the U.S. military — to guard power lines and prevent unrest.

RTFA. None of it will surprise regular geeks in attendance at Eideard. And 21st Century USA.

Courts weigh Doomsday claims – right after Doomsday

Critics who say the world’s largest atom-smasher could destroy the world have brought their claims to courtrooms in Europe and the United States – and although the claims are getting further consideration, neither court will hold up next week’s official startup of the Large Hadron Collider.

The main event took place today in Honolulu, where a federal judge is mulling over the federal government’s request to throw out a civil lawsuit filed by retired nuclear safety officer Walter Wagner and Spanish science writer Luis Sancho.

Meanwhile, legal action is pending as well at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Last week, the court agreed to review doomsday claims from a group of professors and students, primarily from Germany and Austria. However, the court rejected a call for the immediate halt of operations at the LHC.

If this sounds to you like a blizzard of documents, you’re not alone. At today’s hearing, Judge Gillmor took both sides to task for filing so many disjointed documents and for failing to follow the local rules of the court.

Will the judge weather yet another storm of paperwork? Maybe not. She doesn’t want any more filings without her permission.

For a little more background on the tinfoil hat brigade, wander over here. My fellow editors and I at Dvorak Uncensored have posted a few times about the LHC.