Well, I step out the door to work yesterday and my neighbour’s house is wrapped gaily in police tape. Complete with police, news cameras, and a coroner’s van. Generally a coroner’s van is bad news, and this was no exception. A woman had called a friend down south and casually mentioned that her son was dead. The friend said “hold on a second, I’ve got another call.” And she then called the police of course. When they arrived, the mother was “covered with cuts” and her nine year old son was dead of an as yet undetermined cause. It’s being treated as a family tragedy, IE mom snapped her twigs and killed her son.
I didn’t know either of them, though I’m sure I passed them on the street and stood in line with them at our corner store. It hits close to home for a couple of reasons. It’s always so very sad when a child dies, because almost by definition they are dying before their time. They never get to experience a full life, and whatever gift they may have had for us all is lost forever. Amir might have been the next Martin Luther King, now he’s just a dead child and will quickly be forgotten by almost everyone. A kid living next door to me was killed when I was about that age, I haven’t forgotten him. His name was Jeffrey. Jeffrey, meet Amir. God rest both their souls.
Moving right along (I did say this was going to be a depressing week,) Al Gore is a co-winner of the Nobel Peace prize for his work fighting climate change. Does he deserve it? I guess. Al Gore supporters are very happy and pressuring him like never before to run for president. I’m sure right wing pundits are tying themselves in knots. For now I’ll let this story go for the weekend and see if anything develops further. There’s actually been all sorts of stuff going on in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. Maybe I’ll try to put together a post on various thoughts about those over the weekend, stuff is developing so quickly these days it’s easy to get behind on the news.
In any event, regarding my list of ten bad things yesterday, here are a few items that didn’t make the list…
1. Global Warming. I didn’t put in global warming per se because it’s effects are so broad and spread out and hard to define that it is hard to call it a calamity as I defined the word. We are unlikely to wake up one morning and read that global warming killed a million people during the night. And note that two of the possible consequences of global warming, ice sheet collapse and oceanic methane release, did make the list.
2. Magnetic Field Reversal. This is where the earth’s magnetic field weakens and the magnetic poles reverse, the north pole becoming the south pole and vice versa. We’re not exactly sure what happens during a pole shift, compasses won’t work for awhile, and awhile might be a few thousand years. More solar radiation will make it to earth’s surface, but since this shift has happened every few hundred thousand years without any sign that life on Earth skipped a beat, I think we can safely conclude that the effects on the earth’s surface are negligible.
3. Hurricanes/Earthquakes, Tsunamis. I didn’t put these on the list because they are so pedestrian. (It’s my list dammit!) Plus they aren’t really global calamities. Hypercanes didn’t make the list either because they are theoretical. What’s a hypercane? Modelling suggests that if there is enough energy (warm ocean water,) there is something much more powerful than a hurricane that can form…a hypercane. It could be much larger than a hurricane, with an eye 200 miles across, and winds that reach 500kph (300mph.) If the winds don’t kill you, atmospheric pressure would drop to 1/3 normal in the eye of the storm. So we’re talking pretty much 100% fatalities in the effected area. It would also apparently be very stable and might persist as long as there is warm water. Yikes.
Fortunately it would take a bunch of volcanoes in a shallow sea or maybe a comet/asteroid strike in same to make enough sea water warm enough to spawn a hypercane, unlikely in the extreme.
4. Nova/solar flare. Could the sun burp and destroy life on earth? Right now scientists don’t think so, the Sun appears to be a very stable star. Granted we might get a solar flare that destroys the power grid and every electronic device on the side of the planet it hits. In fact some think it’s almost inevitable. Still, there are so many questions about how bad it could be, what damage it might cause, or even how likely it is…so into the reject pile it went. As for a neighbouring star going nova or even supernova, last I read the effects on Earth would be negligible aside from possibly a very spectacular new star in the heavens for a bit.
5. Gamma Ray Burst. On the other hand, a nearby star (comparatively speaking) could create a gamma ray burst, a beam of concentrated gamma radiation so powerful that it could sterilize the side of a planet it hits. Currently astronomers don’t think there are any stars near Earth with the right characteristics to do this, let’s hope they are right.
6. Skynet. Could some supercomputer do in the human race a la the Terminator movies or The Forbin Project? Yeesh, I don’t know. We don’t even know if a computer can be aware like a human being is, a theory of mind as it were, and even then it’s hard to imagine a computer having access to the resources to actually do anything threatening. “Surrender or I’ll ruin your credit ratings!” isn’t going to do the trick. (I hope, maybe I’m underestimating the fortitude of the human race.) Anyhow, it just seems so speculative and unlikely that I assigned to to the fantasy pile.
7. The Simulation is turned off. Could we be actually living inside some sort of simulated world al la The Matrix and similar movies? We are just some historical simulation software running on a high school student’s computer in the year 2525, and when his mom calls him for supper in a few minutes…he’s going to turn us off?
Have a great weekend everyone.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
(The above image of the shrine for my dead neighbour is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is central to illustrating the post, it is not being used for profit, it is a grey scale reproduction of a small portion of the original copyrighted image, and it in no way infringes on the copyright holder’s use of the image. Credit: Chronicle/Kurt Rogers)