David S. Stodolsky
Entropy is on the rise.

 
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The Cosmic Weather Report.

"The fact that Newton's gravitational constant doesn't appear to be changing implies we're safe from a collision [with another universe] for many billions of years."

Galactic Weather Report.

Destruction of all land-dwelling life in the Galaxy overdue? Even soft gamma-ray sources can have a big effect on the Earth. If good weather continues, we can expect the arrival of visitors from an advanced extra-terrestrial civilization any time.

Solar Weather Report.

"We've got one billion years--maybe much less than that--before the sun transforms Earth into a parched purgatory." Time to start some major space engineering projects? Astronomers hatch plan to move Earth's orbit from warming sun. This looks like a major undertaking. A budget solution is increasing atmospheric dust a bit. Benford suggests a one percent increase in airline tickets would be adequate. It seems that a bigger risk is decreased solar activity, which contributed to 17 of the 19 major cold episodes on Earth in the last 10,000 years. Further, it looks like warnings about Global Warming have often been based upon faulty analysis. Fossils leaves reveal climate model errors. "Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth." More on Earth's Future. Goldilocks and the Three Planets. Current predictions seem to ignore the hundred year long Sun Spot cycle, that would start a cooling trend in about ten years.

We now have more people on the lookout for Near Earth Objects than are working at the local fast-food restaurant (Blasting a hole in the surface of a comet gets the go-ahead), but the need for preparation to deflect an object has not reached political consciousness. There are about seven hundred thousand Earth orbit crossing objects. The most conservative estimate is that there is one chance in five thousand of an impact that would destroy civilization in the next hundred years, so the failure to act is resulting in about a thousand deaths per month, statistically speaking. Risk of being killed by an asteroid/comet impact is about the same as that of dying in passenger aircraft crash, but expenditure on "impact safety" is virtually nonexistent.

The global warming problem merely requires a bit more funding, so impacts seem to be the dominant threat to survival. Meeting with extra-terrestrials is likely to prove problematic, given the history of colonization on this planet. So, that is most likely the next big challenge for human civilization. This suggests that it's time for the maximum possible funding of basic research.


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Last update: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 4:55:56 PM.