Death From the Skies – You May Only Have 28 Years to Live

For manic depressives, goths, or doomsday preachers, Dr. Phil Plait has got just the gift for you. Plait has run the popular website Bad Astronomy for a number of years and has just released his delightful new book of planet wide cataclysm: Death From the Skies! These are the Ways the World Will End.

We live in a dangerous universe. As Plait puts it in his book’s introduction “The universe is trying to kill you. It’s trying to kill me, too. It’s trying to kill everybody. And it doesn’t even have to try very hard.” You’ll be surprised how enjoyable it is finding out how you might die. After you come to terms that we are not even a molecule inside a spec on a pimple on the ass of the universe, you can start to wrap your head around the type of events Phil Plait covers in this book.

Each of the doomsday scenario’s described within starts with a brief fictional account of what an average person on this planet would notice and experience as one of these events starts and basically how it would destroy or nearly destroy us. He then goes into some basic physics and cosmology to describe what would happen.

The chapters are brief, to the point, and for the most part endlessly entertaining. Plait’s casual style that you may have seen in his YouTube clips from Bad Astronomy flows well onto the page. The book is written for the layperson, so the science and physics is down to Earth and relayed in the simplest terms so that even a basic grounding in high school science should help you breeze through the explanations.

While a little bit disturbing, it’s not really too frightening. Most of the events described, while happening every day in the universe, have a very low chance of befalling the planet in our lifetime.

Some of the most interesting possibilities involve the death of stars and how that could impact us in ways most people would never expect. For instance, if a star in our celestial neighborhood were to go supernova-an extremely violent explosion at the end of a life of a star generally much bigger than our sun-that could pretty much wipe us out.

The radiation from one of these explosions even in the neighborhood of dozens of light years distant would shower us with enough radiation to destroy the ozone layer and trigger mass extinctions starting with the oceans on up to you and your mother-in-law. The explosion itself is bright. In fact, in 1054 a star 40 Quadrillion miles away went supernova and was brighter than the full moon in the skies for weeks, even visible in the daytime. Nowadays, you can see the leftovers by looking at the crab nebula through a telescope or a good pair of binoculars. That one was far enough away to just be pretty, but the explosion itself put out 12 million times more light than our sun will put out in it’s entire lifetime of billions of years. These explosions are so tremendous that we can see them occurring in other galaxies. Of course, they’re child’s play compared to hypernovas.

Hypernovas are a fairly recent discovery relatively. When a star goes hypernova it puts out such an intense stream of gamma radiation that one in our cosmic neighborhood could literally fry the planet like a burrito in a dirty microwave at the Village Pantry. We discovered these monsters by detecting Gamma Ray bursts. Blips of gamma rays had astronomers scratching their heads for years until it was discovered that they were hypernovas occurring in other galaxies.

That’s correct, these things put out such an intense and powerful stream of radiation that we can detect them in other galaxies. Our get out of jail free card on these planet killers are that the explosions are focused out in straight streams on opposite sides of the explosion, so not only would one have to happen in our galaxy to kill us, but the star would have to be just at the correct angle to point that stream in the direction of our solar system. The closest candidate to go boom and do this to us is a star called Eta Carinae, but it seems to be a few million or billion years from reaching critical mass.

The interesting part is that there is evidence that the planet has been hit by some of these phenomenon before triggering mass extinctions and/or ice ages. In other words, we’ve probably managed to slip into the best time frame to have a few thousand years of good life on the planet. Or the other way to look at it is that we probably only exist because we’ve managed to have enough time between cosmic disasters to evolve this far.

Plait goes into several other interesting ideas such as a small black hole pounding through the solar system and pretty much eating the planet for lunch. Very possible, but unlikely. Statistically, it’s estimated that our solar system probably only wanders near a black hole 2 or 3 times over the lifetime of the sun.

The book even covers alien invasion. I assumed this chapter would be given with a little grain of salt, but he actually approaches it logically proposing a scenario that seems relatively plausible if you make the logical assumption that the universe is teaming with life and other advanced civilizations. And no, the invasion doesn’t start with a little green man buzzing Billy Jim Joe Bob in a cornfield.

In the later chapters, Plait covers more sobering and solemn ideas such as what happens when our sun goes into it’s death rattle if there’s even a slight chance that the human race would survive that long.

I think there are two orders of reader that would really enjoy Death From the Skies. First would be anyone with even a passing interest in astronomy. Second would be anyone who enjoys reading about doomsday scenarios. If you like both, you’ll enjoy this.

If there was a weakness for me it’s that the opening chapter that details the large asteroid or comet impact scenario. While, it certainly will be a fun and interesting way to die, it’s also been done to death in movies and in the media over the past few years, so there wasn’t a lot new to cover there for me personally and is probably is the most dry of the book. However, there were some very interesting proposals on how to avert it even with the technology we have today, given a few years warning.

For those that think that even something as frequent as asteroid impacts is still unlikely, there is a sobering view of this.

A few years ago, a large asteroid, dubbed Apophis was discovered and it appeared to be on a collision course with the Earth in 2029. Apophis is a little over 1000 feet across. Doesn’t sound bad, right? As long as I’m not standing in the vicinity everything should be okay. Well, keep in mind that the asteroid or comet that hit Siberia in 1908 wiping 100s of square kilometers of forest flat was probably at most, about the size of a school bus. That was 100 years ago and that forest is still pretty much dead. For those that aren’t familiar with it, it’s sometimes referred to as the Tunguska Event.

In 2004, scientists were estimating as much as a 3% chance that Apophis would hit the planet. A small but noteworthy probability. Honestly, if you were told that there was a 3 in 100 chance that a building was going to explode tomorrow, would you choose to hang out there?

There was initial relief when it was found that there was virtually no chance of a collision in 2029. However, this quaint little planet killer will be coming very close. In fact, it will pass closer to the planet than the majority of our communications satellites in orbit.

And now for the bad news. Apophis’ orbit around the sun intersects the Earth’s all the time. When an object like this comes too close, our gravity will alter the orbit of the asteroid. If the Earth’s gravity distorts the orbit in just the correct manner, things could get ugly. Basically, we can’t predict to the inch how close the asteroid will come to the planet, but if it takes just the right path by the Earth, passing through what astronomers call “The Keyhole,” it will alter the orbit of Apophis just enough to pound us head on in 2036 when it orbits back around by the planet. And the really bad news is that Bruce Willis will most likely be dead by that time and unable to help us. That leads to the even worse news: we won’t get to kill Bruce Willis again!

There are actually many “Keyholes” through which it might pass that will cause the 2036 impact. Astronomers are estimating that the chances of this happening are about 1 in 45,000. Sounds small, but still, in my opinion, much too large a chance to simply ignore.

So Have a nice day! You may only have 28 years to live!

Death From the Skies is highly recommended reading.

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Life’s Proposals Once Presented – "Boulwarism" a Disdainful Example

“Well Dr. Caldwell, what do you think is wrong?”

“I’m not sure… I might need to do a more thorough investigation to the problem at hand.”

“Doc, can you please tell me what the nature of the problem is… ?”

“I don’t know.”

“But Doc, what do you know?”

“The one thing that I do know is… I don’t know. Do you know how many people are willing to admit they don’t know something?”

“No Doc, how many?”

“I don’t know.”

Let’s face it… Contracts, Agreements, Business Deals, Marketing, and Administration are an intricate and underrated entity in our daily transactions and lifetime enterprises. Bureaucracy tends to burn every one of the more than two-thousand nerve endings coursing throughout our bodies when they tie us up in never-ending paperwork requiring signature after signature. The daily grind of contracts and the business that accompanies it or them are not recognized as legal and binding in many circumstances requiring our undivided attention. We either forget or simply overlook the importance therein.

Contracts, agreements, and other legal documentation truly rule our very existence. Boulwarism is one such entity in the mix of tormenting yet practical responsibilities.

The title was named after one ‘Lemuel R. Boulware,’ no relation to this author of course. He was the ‘Vice-President of General Electric back in the nineteen-sixties. Mr. Boulware created the so-called “Good-Faith Contract” for agreements between labor unions and management. The contract demands from management and Lemuel Boulware insisted upon active participation in deliberation with the intention to find a basis for an agreement, a sincere effort to reach a common ground, and binding agreements on mutually acceptable terms.

Boulware negotiated a “take it or leave it” bargaining technique for that company in the late 1940’s. Using this technique, a company presents a comprehensive contract proposal which, in its opinion, has included all that is necessary or warranted. The implementation of this technique allows a company to present a comprehensive contract proposal which, in its opinion, has included all that is necessary or warranted in a negotiation.

Such a form of negotiation eliminates, according to the company’s argument, any need to compromise in the employer’s mind. Such a proposal is presented at the outset with the understanding that nothing is being held back for later trading, and employees are notified it is a final offer. This places the employer in the untenable position of not being able to negotiate. The NLRB declared an attitude of ‘Boulwarism’ a violation of the duty to bargain. It noted that while the formality of bargaining is followed, no illegal or non-mandatory subjects are insisted upon, and a clear intent to enter into an agreement is exhibited, there exists no serious intent to adjust differences and to reach a common ground.

Such a proposal is presented at the outset of a negotiation with the understanding that nothing is being held back for later trading, and employees are notified it is a final offer. This form of negotiation eliminates any need to compromise in the employer’s mind.

Remember the ‘Taft-Hartley Act?’ This particular type of contract and negotiation is detailed within the folds of a new book on the market. Contracts, Business Law, Real Estate, and other business techniques involving the PC, Software, Hardware, and a few inside secrets for the newly learned, novice, high school and collegiate students, and the business or techie pro. The book goes into detail about contracts, agreements, technology, and business. It is highly recommended for anyone who participates in the varied field of everyday transactions.

The ‘One Thing I Know Is’ how to understand, comprehend, and translate the relationship between business and technology as it presents itself and you will too with the aid of this reference learning and teaching material. It’s available online and wherever books, information, and data are found. Do you need to know a thing or two concerning legal and real estate terminology? This is the book you can find them in… I like to keep a copy handy. It’s kept atop my reading and writing desk, close at hand, for that quick reference and answer when needed. It’s also a very good read as well. Get yours and enjoy.

When a program or a computer is not operating the way that it is supposed to, we take steps to correct them… we want it fixed. When a person is sick or not behaving the way that one should, we call a doctor or a particular professional to make things right again, right? Well a patch is what IT pros (and non-pros) use to make corrections to the program or computer. They fix the things that are wrong in the program or the computer. Many would rely on a computer geek to get their PC’s up and running. That’s one of the reasons that IT personnel rely on updates to offset the possibility of glitches or malfunctions. In the case of the Matrix movie, “Neo” can be described as the patch, the thing or program that is sent to make things right. One could also interpret the Neo program as the ultimate program or an upgrade. What would the purpose of the all-seeing, all knowing Oracle represent? Can it be viewed as an “All Mighty Being?”

The cloud as we know it; a metaphor for the Internet based upon how the Internet is depicted in computer network diagrams; is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided. SaaS (Service as a Software) over the Internet, as I’ve mentioned in previous postings, is the driving force.

It definitely takes new tactics and skill sets in order to acquire a position in the new world of IT, Communications, and Analytics. Sentiment Analysis is gauging the mood of Social Networks and is being incorporated by companies monitoring Community-Driven Websites.

The jobs creation claims it’s logical for Microsoft to point to the cloud providers. Tech vendors plan to double its’ workforce this year. They’re saying cloud and mobile applications are giving birth to millions of U. S. jobs.

That perplexing boast causes me to wonder; if that’s the case, why is the national unemployment rate at record highs? The United States Unemployment numbers read between eight and ten percent. These numbers are devastating to the U. S. economical system.

Business Intelligence (BI) and Information Technology (IT) virtually, methodically, and basically go arm-in-arm. Students who are majoring in business, i.e., administration, management, marketing, accounting, etc., will find that BI and IT have morphed into one entity. One does not do without the other.

What’s the title? Oh Yes, it’s called ‘The One Thing I Know is… ‘

Til Next Time…

The Eco-Futurist Version of Back to the Future

It’s All About What’s Possible

When I was invited to eco-futurist Guy Dauncey’s book presentation of ‘Journey to the Future’ at his home the timing was fantastic. As someone who loves to share great ideas, I just had to put it out there in all its simplicity in hopes that people could seriously start to ‘get it’.

In this ultimate of environmentally-friendly futures we get a peek into an alternate reality that is already in the making for those visionaries who know the word ‘possible’. Imagine Vancouver, BC in the year 2032 as a city brimming with innovative technologies that have leap-frogged far beyond fossil fuel dependency and dysfunctional politics to create a very functional ecotopian lifestyle with syntropy at its foundation.

I love brilliance and I even have some of my own, but here Guy encapsulates and incorporates working models from around the world with his own eco-know-how, and lets his imagination work to process a pictorial tale that everyone can relate to.

Vibrant Change Without the Shock

The changes that need to happen are not a shock to the system − far from it. They are simple shifts in our thinking that we make for ourselves rather than the ones our government imposes on us; our own choice to release ourselves from the stressful lifestyle that is guaranteed to worsen if we continue in this same manner.

Some solutions have a familial element in that communities of people are more vibrant because of the reduced sense of loneliness resulting from raised citizen camaraderie. Some are pure unbridled earthy creations with lush foliage woven into the architectural design of buildings, streets and cement walls − bringing us closer to nature’s restorative powers.

It’s no surprise the sun plays a big part in our quasi-realistic future, and with so many ways to harness that immense power we’ll be paying pennies per kilowatt. It only makes sense because the sun freely gives the energy away without the need for dams or generators − we have the technology and we need to expand our use of it.

Clear Direction Without Compromise

Driving home from his book presentation I sensed an ambiance of anticipation I hadn’t recalled since I left home and stepped out into the world on my own; a teenager with a mind full of wonder excited to be out in a great big beautiful world. The only difference now is a heightened vigilance in blocking the psycho-political dangers that would suck the life out of that big beautiful world, with me in it… and I’m not alone in my perspective.

It’s been very clear these past years that many minds are evolving into this self-organizing mode of thinking that allows us to troop together from our own initiative into a unified understanding in our need for a healthy planet. It’s as if the Earth itself is using its magnetism to get us feeling connected to it again and the cosmos is sending thoughts that are rich with ripe solutions to those who are open-minded enough to listen.