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The Social Costs of Human Extinction

By PullNoPunches in Op-Ed
Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 08:29:32 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

If it was certain that you would die within days, or weeks, but that you would remain healthy until the last minute, would you want to know?

According to an article in the Independent, a scientific advisor to the United States government says you shouldn't have that choice.

No, it is not disease, crime, or even terrorism that might kill you without forewarning if this Rand Corporation scientist has his way. It is a killer asteroid.

"If an extinction-type impact is inevitable, then ignorance for the populace is bliss." Geoffrey Sommer says. "...you are better off not adding to your social costs."

This is a man who is a little too close to his work, truly unable to see the forest for the trees. Faced with the extinction of the human race, social costs, indeed any costs at all, are utterly irrelevant. In fact, everything is irrelevant - government, the economy, scientific research - everything, that is, aside from those last few days in which each individual will decide what to do with the rest of his life.

The knowledge of one's death is the most important news a person could ever hear. Yet this megalomaniac wants to keep that news from billions of people in order to reduce the "social costs" of an extinction event. Ignorance may be bliss to some people, but he wants to decide it should be so for everyone.

Aside from the fact that that many people will want to know of such an event far enough in advance to do such things as say goodbye to distant friends and relatives, make peace with their God, or spend some final time with loved ones, there is a more practical reason not to withhold such information. If this should become policy, then nobody could be sure that a killer asteroid had not been detected. Any plausible rumor or hoax then risks causing exactly the social costs feared by Mr. Sommer.

The problem is, such a policy risks incurring very real social costs in hopes of avoiding purely illusory costs. But more importantly, the arrogance of depriving people of the final opportunity to prepare for their own deaths because this scientist "knows better" is appalling.


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o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
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If I knew about the imminent extinction of the human race, I would....
o Spend time with my family/loved ones 27%
o Whine and argue about it on kuro5hin 16%
o Start killing all the people that piss me off 13%
o Max out the credit cards and PARTY! 30%
o Hurry to finish that big project at work 3%
o Trade my cellmate for all the smokes I can get 0%
o Sell short on Everything 1%
o Not tell anyone, to keep social costs down. 6%

Votes: 321
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o an article in the Independent
o Also by PullNoPunches

Display: Sort:
The Social Costs of Human Extinction | 127 comments (120 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
Lovely... (4.42 / 7) (#1)
by Danse on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 09:49:37 PM EST

So, basically he wants everyone, excluding himself and other priveleged people I'm sure, to continue to waste their remaining time going to work and other such things instead of doing the important things that he and other priveleged people will certainly be doing. Sounds like some kind of anal-retentive control freakiness to me. Any way we can drop a meteor on his house so that he can see the error of his ways?

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
what would you rather he do? (none / 0) (#4)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 09:58:33 PM EST

Tell everyone, which would likely result in rampant murder, looting, and other such chaos?

[ Parent ]
The funny thing is... (none / 0) (#10)
by graal on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:06:37 PM EST

...that looting would be pretty certain. And for what? By the time you got all your booty home and squared away, it'd be all over.

For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

laughing at the looters would be a riot! (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by speek on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:23:22 PM EST

Ah, I kill me :-)

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Watts that you say? (2.00 / 1) (#18)
by graal on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:25:27 PM EST


For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

Looting for looting's sake (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by trane on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 06:28:29 PM EST

You may misunderstand the motivation behind looting. It may not be to gain wealth so much as to withhold or cause damage to property belonging to those you view as unfairly more wealthy than you.

[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#43)
by Danse on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 04:02:17 AM EST

Why not? We're all gonna die pretty soon anyway. Might as well give people a chance to see it coming and do what they need to do. Sure, you'll have to be ready to defend yourself, but at least you won't die in ignorance. Like I said, he's one of those "do as I say, not as I do" types. He's fine as long as he'll know what's going on. He just thinks that somehow he has a right to know and the rest of us don't.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
What "right"? (none / 0) (#60)
by gmol on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:08:30 PM EST

Go get a job at an observamatory if you want to be one of the insiders...

[ Parent ]
why? (none / 0) (#63)
by Danse on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 04:48:35 PM EST

Why should I have to be an insider? Should we all have to work in every profession in order to gain something from that profession? People want to know if there is going to be an earthquake or a hurricane too. Should everyone have to be a geologist or meteorologist? You make no sense.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
AFAIK... (none / 0) (#86)
by gmol on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 02:47:27 PM EST

You don't have a "right" to know the weather forecast.

[ Parent ]
ok.. (none / 0) (#88)
by Danse on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 04:08:18 PM EST

AFAIK, if our government has information that such an incident is about to take place, they have a responsibility to inform people so that they can take whatever action is necessary.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
That's the whole thing, they don't (none / 0) (#89)
by gmol on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 06:08:13 PM EST

Which government has a mandate to let people know something terrible is about to happen?

I think it faster to find a directive that states something to the effect of:

"do things in the interest of the greater good"

which may turn out to be to not tell everyone.

[ Parent ]

and... (none / 0) (#90)
by Danse on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 08:19:22 PM EST

So we're back where we started, with whether or not it's in the greater good for people to know. I think the arguments in the article were pretty good that it is in the greater good that people know what's happening. There is no social good to be served when the society has no future.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Shoot the looters, no way to get sued yay! (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by jubal3 on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 03:06:05 AM EST

Just think, those of us that haven't given up to the gun-phobes hyeria will have a blast shooting looters (or anyone else who messes with my last 50 hours of solid sex!) No consequences. No D.A. to charge me with nmurder 'cause the guy breaking into my house with a gun really just wanted to talk to me and I over-reacted....lol

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Oh dear (none / 0) (#114)
by Rogerborg on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 07:08:54 AM EST

What would looters be looking for at your house?  Something useful, something pragmatic, I think.

Guns and ammo, perhaps.

And say, do you have a gun that can put out fires and keep you awake and alert 24 hours a day?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

If there's only a few days warning (none / 0) (#119)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 03:51:59 PM EST

I can stay awake that long. Of course, after 3 or 4 days, my judgment might not be so good, but it's not like I could be prosecuted for shooting the wrong guy.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Don't worry (none / 0) (#113)
by Rogerborg on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 07:06:46 AM EST

Whatever his opinion of himself, if this guy's advice is taken then I very much doubt that he would be on the Need To Know list.

I mean, we already know his opinion, so why would he need to know that the situation was occurring?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

What I'm wondering ... (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by pyramid termite on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 09:56:28 PM EST

... is just how secret something like this could be? All it takes is one astrometer, possibly even an amateur, looking in the right place at the right time and figuring it out. That is, assuming we actually see the damned thing before it hits us.

And, if we had several months to a year's notice, isn't it possible that some measures could be taken to preserve some vestige of civilization in some section of the world? It's not only a selfish and autocractic idea, it's a remarkably dull and short-sighted one.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
We must protect the nucleus! (5.00 / 6) (#26)
by Andy P on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 11:41:27 PM EST

Strangelove: I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy...heh, heh...(He rolls his wheelchair forward into the light.) at the bottom of ah...some of our deeper mineshafts. Radioactivity would never penetrate a mine some thousands of feet deep, and in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvements in drilling space could easily be provided.  
Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. Ha, ha. But ah, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present Gross National Product within say, twenty years.
Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious...service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.
Russian Ambassador: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.

[ Parent ]
Hey! (none / 0) (#39)
by carbon on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:03:25 AM EST

Putting your sig in the website field! That's a great idea!

Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Yep (none / 0) (#52)
by Andy P on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 10:45:47 AM EST

I could never remember to hit the dropdown menu before posting.  This way, I don't have to.

[ Parent ]
I would love to be in that cave :) (none / 0) (#81)
by truchisoft on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 11:52:58 AM EST

Argentinian Ambassador: Every men's dream of course, but you would need a quite a big wardrove(sp?) to put all the costumes needed to stimulate for the guy after the 7th day of 24/7 sex... ps: loved it, where did you get that from? you did it? based on?
--- Saludos de Argentina.
[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 0) (#62)
by Betcour on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 04:09:42 PM EST

We could use the opportunity to get rid of some of those excess nukes. I mean, how many nukes would it take to turn a big asteroid into tiny not-so-dangerous asteroids ? 10 ? 100 ? We got more than 10000 of them. The only problem is the delivery of the payload, but combining the US, French, Russian and Chinese space agencies that's a lot of delivery capacity :)

[ Parent ]
"Not-so-dangerous?" (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Drooling Iguana on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 06:36:29 PM EST

Unless the detonation is so great that the fragments miss the Earth entirely, a million small asteroids is every bit as dangerous as one big one.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm (none / 0) (#78)
by Betcour on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 04:09:55 AM EST

Well not really, they burn in the atmosphere, and provided they are small enough, they'll burn completely without touching the ground. Even if they are still too big, a rainshower of tiny asteroids can certainly destroy cities, but they're less likely to create earthquakes, tsunamis or produce as much dust clouds as one big asteroid. That is quite good for peoples who live on the other side of the earth.

[ Parent ]
doesn't matter either way (4.25 / 4) (#3)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 09:57:41 PM EST

In my view, it doesn't make any difference. If, in two weeks, you and everyone else will no longer be alive, it makes no difference how you spend those last two weeks.

So I guess it's a tossup to me. I'd probably edge towards not telling people, because of the possibility of ensuing social chaos (looting, rampant murder, etc.). Now you might ask why ensuing social chaos would matter either, and I suppose it really doesn't, but it'd make for a very unpleasant two weeks. Also, if the prediction happened to be wrong, I'd rather find out later "hey, we thought there was going to be an asteroid but we were wrong," rather than being told there would be one, endure 2 weeks of devastating riots, and then being told "oops, we messed up" and trying to put society back together.

You have a point, if (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by PullNoPunches on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:05:23 PM EST

it is not certain to hit. But at some point, certainly hours, if not days or even weeks, before impact, it will become certain.

As to the riots and looting, I don't think that outweighs letting people have time to prepare. Any decision is, ultimately, pointless, but let's let each person decide instead of one or two guys in Washington.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

Social cost? (4.42 / 7) (#6)
by j1mmy on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:03:51 PM EST

What social cost? We're all about to die!

I agree with this guy. I (and I imagine most people) would rather go about their lives than know that the Earth and all people on it are doomed.

Just consider the outcome.

Let's say we predice a planet-killer three days ahead of time.

That's three days when almost everybody (there are always non-believers) will quit their jobs and go bonkers.
"I always wanted to go to [location]." Oh fuck, [location] is closed because the staff quit.

"I always wanted a [thing]." Too late, other looters beat you to it.

"No asteroid is gonna off me! BANG" The suicide crowd will be mighty disappointed if the asteroid doesn't hit.

"God has dealt us this punishment becase of [reason]!" Right. God is all "oh i totally fucked up" and decides to clear the slate and start over.

The last few days of mankind will see more rape and murder and theft than any time in history. On the off chance that humankind leaves a legacy, I'd be ashamed of that one.

Let us go about our daily lives. When the inevitable strikes, it's going to strike too quickly for any of us to notice or care.

Higher possibility of this (5.00 / 4) (#11)
by PullNoPunches on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:12:55 PM EST

Isn't there a higher possibility of this happening if there is a credible rumor or hoax, and everyone knows the governments have a policy of not telling when it really is going to happen?

A hoax attempt or rumor is a lot more likely to happen than a real asteroid, but with such a policy, the government loses the ability to convincingly deny such a hoax or rumor.

I'm guessing that most people will just want to be with their families, and may not be much affected by rioting and looting. And for those religious people, not knowing ahead of time could have serious consequences. (Not that I believe it, but why deprive those to whom it is important that knowledge?)


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

So then the real solution (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by Captain Trips on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 09:23:23 PM EST

is for the governments to just pretend they'll tell us, but agree to keep it a secret anyway. So if large numbers of astronomers suddenly start quitting their jobs and emptying out their retirement funds, that'll be the sign to start looting. (Except that preemptive looting never seems to work very well for some reason.)

The fact that cigarette advertising works, makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, Santa Claus is real.—Sloppy
[ Parent ]
At the risk of inviting the Steven King trolls... (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by graal on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:13:41 PM EST

...I thought the most unsettling parts of The Stand was the background collapse of, well, everything in the first third or so of the book...all the little throwaway scenes of society imploding because of the superflu.

I'm inclined to believe that a two-week countdown would be a lot like that.

For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

so? (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by speek on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:20:43 PM EST

"I always wanted to go to [location]." Oh fuck, [location] is closed because the staff quit.

Dear god no, please not that.

"I always wanted a [thing]." Too late, other looters beat you to it.

So? I can probably live without it for three days.

"No asteroid is gonna off me! BANG" The suicide crowd will be mighty disappointed if the asteroid doesn't hit.


The last few days of mankind will see more rape and murder and theft than any time in history

Again, so? Think of it this way - it'll be balanced out in the long run because we won't be around much longer!

Let us go about our daily lives.

What, so you're voting for the "talk about it on K5" option?

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Would you want to get raped or murdered? nt. (2.00 / 1) (#66)
by trane on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 06:34:02 PM EST

[ Parent ]
would you want to be killed by an asteroid (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by speek on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 01:02:50 AM EST

Right after having a stupid fight with your son?

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

nah (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by trane on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 03:48:29 AM EST

I'd rather know about the asteroid.

I was just responding to your rather hasty dismissal of rape and murder. If you found out about the asteroid but were then raped and killed before you had a chance to talk to your son, it would suck. Not saying I'd rather not know, but just wondering how best to avoid the rape and murder.

[ Parent ]

Interesting Question (4.75 / 4) (#20)
by eccentricity on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:34:20 PM EST

I guess it would depend on your view of mankind.

Would chaos erupt once no one faces consequences for their actions? Some would. But would the majority of people, or just small bursts that can be contained?

Who knows.

[ Parent ]

It matters to me. (4.33 / 3) (#16)
by monkeymind on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:21:09 PM EST

If we all only have weeks to live, I want to know. I could finish quite a few books on the to be read pile as I am not going back to work.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.

Choice (3.80 / 5) (#19)
by eccentricity on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:26:50 PM EST

It's obvious that different people have different opinions on whether they want to know. Hence, give them a choice: Similar to a do-not-call list, have a call-me-if-the-sky-is-falling list.

Opt-in rules! Of course... there's the problem that once some people know (and perhaps chaos ensues), then everyone will know...

Perhaps a gag order on talking about it if you know. Who knows? This is a moot topic anyways, since for me I don't care (unless there's some chance I could save myself somehow)

what a coincidence (3.00 / 5) (#21)
by turmeric on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 10:37:51 PM EST

i was going to blow up rand, and wasn't planning on telling anyone about it. oh wait that is not an appropriate joke, we are at war after all! ok let me rephrase it. I was going to sprinkle pink goo all over rand, and wasn't going to tell anyone about it!

Ignorance is bliss (4.66 / 9) (#23)
by jabber on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 11:04:19 PM EST

If everyone knew they were going to die in two weeks, would anyone bother doing anything for anyone else?

No one would bother to go to work. Why should they. And if they didn't, then no one would be able to "enjoy" the last of their time. Money would cease to matter, since the stores would not be staffed, and would all be looted. Law enforcement would grind to a halt. Violent crime would be rampant, since, hey you're getting the death sentence anyway. No fuel, no light, no food. It'd be hell.

Seriously, consider how you would spend your last two weeks. How would you do it as the people whose normalcy you depend on. How would they function without a functional society to lean on. Civilized society would utterly collapse. Only those living without the benefit of an infrastructure would continue to exist as they always have.

This guy is right.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

How polite... (5.00 / 4) (#24)
by Pac on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 11:24:10 PM EST

When it does not matter anymore, it simply does not matter. Forget staffing the stores. Forget law enforcement. Forget fuel, light, food.

And mostly, forget this Victorian urge for normalcy where no such a thing should exist.

If we are going down, let us all go down in whatever madness we see fit. Some will lock themselves with their familes. Some will conquer the streets. Some will have sex for the first and last time. Some will die early. All will die soon. We had this planet for thousands of years. Let us at least give Evolution and extinction it will not forget...

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

[ Parent ]
The real problem: Embarrassment (4.75 / 8) (#25)
by localroger on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 11:39:16 PM EST

Let's face if, if the Rand folks fail to notice a killer asteroid until it's screaming through the atmosphere, they won't have cause to worry about their failure. They will have the same bigger problems that you do.

OTOH if they do warn you, and they turn out to be wrong, they will be laughingstocks. I suspect this is the true hidden motivation whose result this position paper is trying to justify in *cough* more acceptable terms.

I can haz blog!

I was thinking about this last night. (5.00 / 2) (#51)
by Andy P on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 10:41:09 AM EST

Personally, I thought it would be pretty damn funny to hear the emergency broadcast... "uh... guys, you can put down the looted Nike shoes, we, uh, forgot to carry the 1.  Sorry."

[ Parent ]
Poll needs one more option ... (4.80 / 5) (#27)
by joegee on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 11:44:12 PM EST

"All of the above"

After talking about the good ole days with my loved ones, I'd get shitfaced, grab a few packs of ciggies, hunt down Those Who Opposed Me, whoop it up in prison with my new "life partner", then rant on K5 from the mandatory prison net connection. >:)

In all seriousness though, isn't it amazing some of the idiocy that paid thinkers can contrive when given lots of money and too much time? I can understand withholding as a kindness, and yet I believe that we're entitled to the knowledge to make such peace as we can. To me this knowledge is allowing us the simple human dignity of facing our end on our own terms, in our own way.


<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
Poll options (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:16:09 AM EST

There's only eight spaces, so I had to leave off "Pray", and "Rent all the Porn I can find - No late fees!". No room for "AOTA".


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

Damn damn damn :) (none / 0) (#53)
by joegee on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 11:02:57 AM EST

Thanks for trying. :)

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
What a selfish bastard! (5.00 / 12) (#28)
by Andy P on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 11:44:52 PM EST

He'd deny us a final week of rabid hot sweaty monkey sex?  No attachment, hell, not even worry about STDs...

We all know the privileged few in the know would be having orgies left, right and center.  What an evil bastard!

Could you clarify? (none / 0) (#45)
by LukeyBoy on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 09:23:33 AM EST

Did you mean monkey sex, or monkey-like sex?

[ Parent ]
I think... (none / 0) (#48)
by tkatchev on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 10:35:59 AM EST

...he meant watching monkeys copulate.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Whatever floats your boat (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Andy P on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 10:38:28 AM EST

I mean, we're all going to be dead anyways, does it really matter?

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't want to know... (2.50 / 2) (#29)
by midnightrunner on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 12:29:32 AM EST

You have a point when you say that a policy of not telling people in the event of an impending asteroid strike might encourage hoaxes, but that aside, I sure as hell wouldn't want to know about it ahead of time - knowing would completely screw up the rest of my life!

Who would we save? (4.50 / 4) (#30)
by twistedfirestarter on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 12:38:00 AM EST

That's the real question. A comet would cause widespread destruction but if it was small enough, it would be possible to escape in time. Transport out of the endangered zone (which could be an entire continent, hopefully not the entire surface of the earth), will be limited, so we will only be able to pick a chosen few to survive.

Imagine if America or Europe or Africa was about to be nuked by a comet, how expensive plane tickets out would be.

In this case it is essential that everyone know what is going on so that the ruling classes (read politicians and corporations) don't just monopolize the escape transport and help all their friends and family survive.

And of course, there's always the mineshafts.

Asteriods as a nuclear allegory (none / 0) (#38)
by X3nocide on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 02:49:11 AM EST

It just occurred to me that there's little difference between the two. In which case, we(the USA) do have an evacuation plan. I'm not sure what good a President is without a nation to lead or whatever a President does.

[ Parent ]
Main difference (none / 0) (#41)
by twistedfirestarter on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:27:21 AM EST

Is that with an asteroid you would know for a given amount of time, t, before hand that devastation was imminent. A nuclear strike would be as unexpected as possible (element of surprise).

This would lead to a slightly different situation (although it would be pretty similiar) beacuse there would be more time for panic to take hold, and also more time for other escape strategies (fleeing by various transport) to work. I think the government would treat both the same.

What would t equal? I don't know, but I suspect it would be more than a couple of days and less than a week.

[ Parent ]

DEAR SWEET GOD NO!!!!1 (2.33 / 3) (#31)
by Imperfect on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:07:19 AM EST


Not perfect, not quite.
The Internet (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:46:39 AM EST

The Internet is designed to route around damage. No need to worry.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Rats. (none / 0) (#37)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 02:33:35 AM EST

You beat me to it.

I can't hear you, there's a banana in my ear.

[ Parent ]
no porn=lots of rape (nt) (none / 0) (#75)
by auraslip on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 02:29:11 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Underground Bunkers (4.33 / 3) (#33)
by cronian on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:23:21 AM EST

I think these "important" people have some bunker under the ground somewhere where they might be able to survive. By not telling anyone, they maximize their chances of slipping away to their bunker without starting a revolution. If people were to find out about impending disaster that could potentially have been avoided, they might actually go out and kill these "important" people. Of course the "important" people don't want this to happen.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
Don't tell me (3.33 / 3) (#35)
by godix on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:59:57 AM EST

If I can't notice a huge bright 'star' growing larger every day and figure out what it might be, I deserve to die ignorant.

An interesting story that touches on this premise: Larry Niven's short story Inconstant Moon. Unfortunately Niven was too much a pussy to actually end the story the way it should have, but it's an interesting 'last night to live' story regardless.

You son of a bitch!
- RyoCokey

Sorry - you're already ignorant (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by Bora Horza Gobuchol on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 02:13:08 PM EST

An approaching asteriod would not be a "huge bright star" - indeed the reason that we have sometimes been alerted about "Earth-grazing" asteriods after they have passed Earth is because of their low albedo. Covered in rock and carbon dust, these objects are particularly hard to spot unless they obscure a star.

The one exception to this might be the object I believe you are thinking of - a comet. Ignited by the heat of the Sun, a comet's tail would be visible with the naked eye. However, most comets would be a far lower threat - composed primarily of water ice, their overall mass would be far lower than a rock or iron asteriod of the same size, and far more of it would disintergrate in Earth's atmosphere on entry.

-- "Don't criticise. Create a better alternative."
[ Parent ]
The value of time (4.77 / 9) (#40)
by Greyjack on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:04:56 AM EST

I've seen a number of posts with sentiments similar to Delerium's:
If, in two weeks, you and everyone else will no longer be alive, it makes no difference how you spend those last two weeks.
OK, what if it were two months instead? Would the extra six weeks make a difference?

What if it were two years?

Two centuries?

Eventually, at some point, "you and everyone else will no longer be alive" -- perhaps in a few billion years when the Sun burns out, perhaps in 20 minutes when [unforseen catastrophic event] occurs, perhaps in two weeks after the invasion has started and the nukes and biologicals start flying, perhaps in a few million trillion years when the universe itself expands to the point of cold death or implodes in the Big Collapse.

Eventually, EVERYTHING will be gone.

As for the near term, I'm confident that, sooner than you'd like, you, along with everyone else you know, will be dead. (It may take a century, it may not. Who knows?)

Is a century more important than a week? A month more important than an hour? How priceless are the seconds that are ticking by RIGHT NOW!

Given the inevitable End, is there any point to anything, ever?

Anyway, I gotta go take a dump.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

You've got a point there. (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by j1mmy on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 09:46:01 AM EST

Maybe we should all kill ourselves.

[ Parent ]
An alternative (none / 0) (#99)
by xylocain on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 09:33:28 AM EST

Or we could stop reproducing.

[ Parent ]
"Whine and argue about it on kuro5hin" (5.00 / 23) (#42)
by Skwirl on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:34:05 AM EST

The final ten comments posted on Kuro5hin:

10. All this preapocalypse traffic is hindering my Kazaa downloads

9. Okay, I confess, I just took the CMF funds and bought a yacht. Screw you

8. The severed heads of all the people who tried to witness with me this week are starting to smell funny

7. Hey! My diary scrolled off the page before anybody commented

6. Slashdot was flooded with penis birds, so I came here

5. See, I told you that T.S. Elliot was wrong

4. If we spent more time transhumanizing and less time genetically modifying foods, we wouldn't have this problem

3. Rusty, hurry up and optimize the mod_perl server already!

2. Well, I guess dying as a virgin isn't so bad

And the final comment posted on Kuro5hin before the world ends...

I blame the fiction section

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse

Containment would be difficult... (4.60 / 5) (#44)
by Hatamoto on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 04:35:35 AM EST

Okay, assume this guy DOESN'T tell the general public. You know absolutely that there's going to be more than just this guy on the team, and that he's going to have to report to someone higher on the food chain. These people who are higher would almost certainly lead up to ruling parties of whatever country the scientist-in-question is beholden to.

So now everyone from the source group up the ladder to the top now knows. They all have friends, loved ones, hated ones. Some of that news will leak out, unless everyone is as much of a fanatical adherent to the "don't ever tell ever" policy as this guy. There's a good possibility that country in question would pass along information to heads of state of allied countries, to convene on the possibility of a solution: deflection, destruction, avoidance, survival... In addition to that, spy agencies with people on the inside of <insert governments here> will likely find out about it, and pass that information on to their heads of state. Someone, somewhere along the line *will* talk. Not generating an official statement is, at best, a holding strategy.

It would seem to me that the best strategy to minimize widespread mayhem would be to reveal the killer astroid/death plague/incoming alien invasion as official, and reassure people that they'll be fine because "things will be taken care of". Spin the fuck out of it. They've already had plenty of practice on that score. Some people won't believe and will go on a rampage, but it would be a substantially reduced number from a "yep, this is it, we're all going to die" type announcement.

"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)

There is a way to contain it (none / 0) (#111)
by Rogerborg on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 06:58:23 AM EST

Kill everyone that knows, and keep killing them faster than the news can spread reliably.

Of course, nobody is going to order their own execution, but inter-office politics should take care of that.

I'm not proposing that this should be done, or even that it would work, but it could work if done quickly and with utter conviction.

Note to astronomers the world over; if you discover a planet killer, tell nobody or tell everybody.  Do not, repeat do not trust Uncle Sam to do the right thing.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

The opposite view (4.83 / 12) (#47)
by Eloquence on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 10:01:15 AM EST

Press release

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Contact: Miguel Tersey, (732) 932-7084, extension 616 E-mail: mtersy@ur.rutgers.edu

February 13, 2003

Asteroids, panic and planning

The human dimesions of a near-earth object impact

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Lee Clarke, a sociology professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will discuss "Responding to Panic in a Global Impact Catastrophe" during a symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Denver. The session, "The Asteroid/Comet Impact Hazard: A Decade of Growing Awareness," will take place Thursday (Feb. 14) at 8:30 a.m. in Room A207 of the Colorado Convention Center.

Clarke is an internationally known expert in disasters and in organizational and technological failures. He has written about panic, civil defense, evacuation and community response to disaster, and is the author of "Mission Improbable: Using Fantasy Documents to Tame Disaster," a book about planning for very low probability-high consequence events.

Despite the mass panic depicted in the movies and on television, Clarke said this is not what happens in real disasters. "We have five decades of research on all kinds of disasters -- earthquakes, tornadoes, airplane crashes, etc.-- and people rarely lose control," he said. "Policy-makers have yet to accept this. People are quite capable of following plans, even in the face of extreme calamities, but such plans must be there."

For a disaster plan to be successful, Clarke said that communication must play an integral role. He pointed out that officials may lose the public's trust and doom the plan to failure if information is withheld based on the false assumption that people will become hysterical.

Clarke issued the caveat that for plans to be effective, a nation must have a sufficiently developed infrastructure for carrying out a civil defense program during a major disaster. Clarke noted that no one has actually planned for the massive disaster that could accompany collision with a near-earth object (NEO) -- a comet or an asteroid. "While the idea of this happening is almost unthinkable, we must realize that no countries have plans in place nor are there international agreements for coordinated civil defense responses," he said.

"The United States is the world leader in most things, and we ought to be out in front in talking about the danger and in expending resources on deflection and mitigation," he continued. Though science policy advisers from the 30 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are considering NEO contingency proposals, Third World countries are not represented. Clarke stressed that the problem needs to be highlighted in the United Nations, where the voices and interests of poorer countries can be heard.

Clarke posed the example of an NEO striking the ocean, a likely scenario since 70 percent of the earth's surface is ocean. "An asteroid hitting the water could create an immense wave hitting the coasts," Clarke said. "An appropriate civil defense plan could focus on moving the population inland prior to impact." He said that even now we should be talking publicly about population relocation, potentially on a massive scale, and developing incentives for geographical redevelopment to slow the rate of people moving into vulnerable places.

"Earth's history is filled with unanticipated catastrophes and their disastrous consequences. With appropriate planning, the human toll could be lessened," said Clarke.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

That answers a question ... (4.50 / 2) (#71)
by gumbo on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 12:12:34 AM EST

... I had been contemplating since seeing a documentary about so called "mega-tsunamis". I don't know if the BBC's Horizon programme is aired in the states but the episode in question is particularly relevant to anyone living on the West Coast.

For those who might not have heard about them (as I hadn't), mega-tsunamis are incredibly large tidal waves which occur whenever a significantly sized quantity of land collapses into the ocean at a high enough velocity. Evidence from one particular incident in Lituya Bay (Alaska) suggests that around 90 million tonnes of rock collapsed to produce a tidal wave roughly 500 metres in height.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, there is a volcano called the Cumbre Vieja on the island of La Palma in the Canaries that could (sometime in the next few thousand years) cause a landslide that would result in a tidal wave large enough to devastate the West Coast of America up to 20km inland. It would take roughly 8 hours to get across the Atlantic.

So, in order to evacuate everyone to safety each person would need to be travelling directly inland at an average speed of > 2.5km and hour. Of course, no-one can travel in an exactly straight line so you would need to be hitting more than that to stand a chance. But even at double that speed it's still not that fast, perhaps even possible on foot if you are fit, healthy and mobile. It would be exhausting, certainly, but you'd do it if your life depended on it.

I had always assumed that, despite the slowness of the necessary speed (especially relative to modern transport), it would not be possible to engineer a half decent evacuation. Surely everyone would just jump in their cars, cause gridlock, block the avenues of escape and go crazy? But based on your post it seems the answer is ... not necessarily.

Probably worth making some plans tho' ...

[ Parent ]

East coast, actually (4.50 / 2) (#106)
by floydian on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 06:34:55 PM EST

Thanks for the link. This is very interesting stuff. I'd just like to note that the article mentions that "Boston would be hit first, followed by New York, then all the way down the coast to Miami and the Caribbean", all of which are eastern cities.

[ Parent ]
Indeed, sorry about that (none / 0) (#108)
by gumbo on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 12:46:07 AM EST

Noticed I'd done it shortly after posting and attempted to correct myself. Like I said in the correction, confusing the East and West coasts of America is a mistake I have made consistently since being a kid. I think the imprinted logical error goes something like this: Russia=East, America=West, West Coast=coast West of me (I'm a Brit). Ever since then I have been unconsciously filing everything I associate with the East Cost under the wrong heading. It was a somewhat callous mistake to make in this context given that, when it comes to natural disasters, the people on the West Coast have enough to worry about.

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#120)
by floydian on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 06:36:07 PM EST

Same thing has always happened to me, too... it's funny that only now, after many, many hours of playing Vice City, I'm able to (kind of) distinguish them.

Oh, by the way, I didn't notice that you'd already corrected yourself until it was too late... sorry, I guess.

[ Parent ]

East Coast (none / 0) (#72)
by gumbo on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 12:41:27 AM EST

always got that wrong as a child too ... ah well, you live and don't learn.

[ Parent ]
Killer asteroids? (1.66 / 3) (#49)
by psicE on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 10:36:34 AM EST

I think the Onion said it best, with their front-page "weather forecast" sidebar listing five different asteroids that were expected in the next two weeks. Four of them had an asterisk next to them, signifying them as being of "earth-destroying size". Hasn't everyone noticed how every single one of these earth-destroying asteroids has came and went with not so much as a hiccup?

It's the closest thing we still have to the Y2K bug (though this behavior was going on well before Y2K). Six months before, we thought the world was going to break, because computers would think it just became 1900. On January 1, 2000, the world still worked. It also still worked on September 9, 1999; January 1, 2001; January 2, 2003 (or 1 February 2003); and in fact, on every single magic date when everything was going to stop.

The world is not going to end.

If people are taught to understand that basic fact, it will not matter how many fake stories of killer asteroids, or killer dates, or killer tomatoes, they hear. There won't be chaos, because they will see through them.

Exactly! (none / 0) (#56)
by Dolohov on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:11:57 PM EST

In fact, let's extrapolate your arguments a bit. Everyone says that 100-some fatal car accidents occur every day, but I've never been in one. I've never had this "cancer" that everyone talks about, either. Let's face it.

I am not going to die.

And the sooner I accept that, the less I will panic if faced with something silly like cancer or a swerving semi.

All silliness aside, you've completely failed to distinguish between possible events and superstition. Yes, many "killer dates" have come and gone, and will come and go, because people are gullible. But sooner or later (Probably much, much later) there will be a date, and if people know ahead of time, they'll come up with the same reasons why that arbitrary date is a "killer date" using the same fuzzy rationale. and they'll still be wrong, but they'll all die anyway.

[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#58)
by mmealman on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 02:14:42 PM EST

I am not going to die.

Well, so far so good, right?

[ Parent ]
re: Yeah (none / 0) (#59)
by Dolohov on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:06:47 PM EST

Yep! So far so good :)

[ Parent ]
Oh yeah? (none / 0) (#69)
by mstefan on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 11:54:01 PM EST

The world is not going to end.

Tell that to Nancy Leider. The end is near, read all about it! We're all doomed! Doomed, I tell you!

[ Parent ]
Thank you very much (none / 0) (#83)
by xL on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 12:27:37 PM EST

That was very entertaining. And it is good to know that this year the earth will stop rotating in a matter of days. If I set myself on the right mountain I can get myself flung off to a better place through the brake force. Would Nepal do?

[ Parent ]
So that's where Tom Ridge Gets it (none / 0) (#87)
by PullNoPunches on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 02:50:06 PM EST

you'll notice that the "Troubled Times" alert level is Orange, until May, that is.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

Extinction level events (4.66 / 3) (#54)
by Mojo JoJo on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 11:08:19 AM EST

The problem I see with most of these arguments is that even an extinction level asteriod impact wouldn't kill everyone at once. The people at the impact point (or the coasts if it hit an ocean) would be the first ones to die, but everyone else would esentially die of slow starvation.

The could be where the social cost factor comes in. The reasoning being that the goverment would be able to distribute remaining resources to increase the chances that at least some people could survive. Allowing people to know about this in advance would cause chaos and hoarding.

This is, of course, the optimistic view of it. I tend to think that a more likely scenerio is that the goverment would keep as much as they could for themselves (as in Dr. Strangelove).


SkyNet told me to tell you that Google is watching you. - CheeseburgerBrown

That depends (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by mstefan on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 11:44:34 PM EST

In the case of a significant impact (ie: a mass level extinction event), you're not going to have long term survivors. The impact on the Yucatan Peninsula by an asteroid almost 10km wide caused the extinction of about 75% of the species on Earth. Depending on type, about 50-80% of marine species were killed (including about 85% of plankton, the base of the food chain) and no land mammal or reptile over 25kg survived.

If an equivalent sized asteroid struck the Earth now, you'd have massive earthquakes (up to about Richter magnitude 13) and enormous quantities of dust would be in the atmosphere, completely blocking the sun for months. It would be perpetually dark, and temperatures would drop dramatically; within two months, more than 70% of plant life would be dead. This would be compounded by the huge wildfires that would spread as a result of the impact.

On the other hand, if it hit water, then you'd have massive tsunamis, with a series of waves ranging from 1-3km high; coastal cities would be destroyed, and the interiors of most continents would be flooded. The water vapor and carbon dioxide released as a result of the impact would cause a dramatic rise in greenhouse gasses and, after the initial dust and debris settles, would cause global warming. Not to mention that the impact would cause the formation of nitrogen oxides, which would combine with the water vapor to produce nitric acid which would then fall back to Earth.

Bottom line, our ecosystem would be seriously damaged and there is virtually no chance that human survivors would be able to sustain themselves in the long run. At most, more effective resource allocation means a few more people survive for a few more months in Hell. Make no mistake, the cockroaches will be taking over.

[ Parent ]
Don't be so pessimistic (5.00 / 2) (#91)
by NoBeardPete on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 08:41:14 PM EST

Humans are probably the most flexible large animals the earth has ever seen. They have lived in almost every corner of the Earth, even when they had to almost exclusively use locally available resources. Humans live on arctic tundra, tropical rain forests, high altitude mountains, very small islands, deserts, grasslands, forests, and pretty much everywhere else. Humans have been able to do this even in relative isolation from the rest of humanity, in the past.

If there was only a single large land animal to survive some apocalypse, it would almost certainly be man. You say cockroaches would last while we would not, but I think mankind's range covers more of the earth than that of the cockroch. You say that no land mammal or larger than 25 kg survived the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs. Mankind has been able to survive on a lot of tiny islands that couldn't support terrestrial animals of more than a fraction the size of man.

Face it, we're too damned flexible to die out easily. We're just about the ultimate generalist species. We can live almost anywhere. We're smart enough to learn good strategies for survival in a very short period of time, even in a totally new enviornment. And once we do learn these strategies, we can pass them on the other humans, who can gain immediate benefit, without going through that painful period where one hasn't quite figured out how to get by. Between the abilities to make shelter, clothing, and fire, we can survive a pretty wide range of temperatures. We can eat almost any animal or vegetable materials we can get our hands on. And our ability to make and use tools and traps means that there isn't much we can't get our hands on, if we set our minds to it.

Now, I'm not saying everyone will survive, obviously. But I suspect that at least a few humans somewhere will survive almost anything that doesn't wipe off all life on Earth.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

The Social Costs of Human Extinction (3.50 / 4) (#55)
by gmuslera on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 11:38:15 AM EST

Will be a bit less processed foods in the long run, and a bit more space, for the remaining societies of the world, that is, ants, bees and similars. For them, I think that will be positive.

But for us, well... at least I will stop receiving spam

It's just common-sense strategy (5.00 / 6) (#57)
by Sloppy on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 01:36:35 PM EST

The problem with telling everyone (and being believed) is that "Max out the cards and party" doesn't work. If you want to fraudulently sell the non-existent future for a better present, you have to find an unwitting buyer for that future.

You need the banks to approve the credit card charges, instead of shutting down. You want the 'vette salesman to think you're going to make more than just that one down payment.

You need for your construction friend who is going to help you build that S&M dungeon, to believe your promise that you'll help set up his computer next month. And when it's Miller Time, you don't want him to be looking over his shoulder, where he'll see you walking up behind him with a shovel instead of a beer.

You need all the people who you're going to kidnap and put in your S&M dungeon, to think that society is still operating normally so that they won't be too suspicious when you offer them a ride in your shiny new car.

It needs to be a secret, or everything is ruined.
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."

You're supposed to pretend (5.00 / 3) (#61)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 03:23:34 PM EST

that most of the poll options are not impossible. It's more fun that way.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

All these goods sitting around uneaten. (3.50 / 2) (#98)
by Ward57 on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 09:17:39 AM EST

You know, I once read an and-of-the-world book in which the bank teller just said "oh, take as much as you want. I mean, the world's going to end in a week".

[ Parent ]
Money (none / 0) (#117)
by Sloppy on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 11:45:09 AM EST

Of course. If everyone knows the world is ending in a week, then cash is worthless. The replacement money system would probably be based on something with hedonist utility, such as beer or sex lube.
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
[ Parent ]
Practical reason why you should tell (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by pulnimar on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 06:32:43 PM EST

Assuming you phrased the announcement the correct way, you could stave off "social costs" and maybe garner an idea on how to deal with it from someone otherwise uninvolved. It is amazing what kind of problems people choose to think thru just for fun.

True effects of asteroids (4.00 / 3) (#70)
by by on on Sat Feb 15, 2003 at 11:59:08 PM EST

It is much more likely that a few towns, (or maybe a tiny country) would be immediately wiped out by a big asteroid. The other 99.9% of the world would be put through the long-lasting secondary effects: the dusted sky, the cold. Although many would die over the following years, the human species would not be wiped out by such an event.

If there are any bigger (really big!) rocks out there, we would see them coming from a very long way away. In that case, there is simply no way it could be kept a secret.

Ever gone stargazing during the day? (none / 0) (#101)
by roystgnr on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 01:54:35 PM EST

There are bigger rocks out there, and we've only recently found the majority of 1+ kilometer sized rocks in Earth-crossing orbits.  Part of the problem is that anything in an orbit where it can threaten us is also likely to be in an orbit that is usually in the daylight hemisphere of the sky and thus nearly invisible to ground-based astronomy.

Take a look at the news stories for some of the relatively "close" (less than a million kilometers away) passes of asteroids we've had in the last few years; I remember at least one or two whose existance we hadn't known about until a few days after they flew by.

[ Parent ]

Relevance Check (none / 0) (#123)
by virg on Wed Feb 19, 2003 at 11:16:04 AM EST

> There are bigger rocks out there, and we've only recently found the majority of 1+ kilometer sized rocks in Earth-crossing orbits. Part of the problem is that anything in an orbit where it can threaten us is also likely to be in an orbit that is usually in the daylight hemisphere of the sky and thus nearly invisible to ground-based astronomy.

Your comment is correct, but not relevant to the topic under discussion. His comment may be inaccurate in assuming we can see big things far away, but it works insofar as if anyone could see a big object, many people could see it, and thus keeping it secret would be difficult.

> Take a look at the news stories for some of the relatively "close" (less than a million kilometers away) passes of asteroids we've had in the last few years; I remember at least one or two whose existance we hadn't known about until a few days after they flew by.

Again, we're discussing telling people about a known threat. If we don't see it until after it passes, then it doesn't really apply to this article, or this discussion.

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Correllate to Columbia (4.75 / 4) (#74)
by doormat on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 01:43:50 AM EST

We had a discussion in my philosophy class a few days after Columbia disintigrated (only a 200-level class, nothing big), about how if NASA knew that Columbia was screwed or had a small chance after liftoff, would they tell the astronauts. I know that such an abstract idea of a Extinction Level Event is kinda hard to relate to. But when its put in the frame of a real (and tragic) event, my decision becomes clear, I want to know..

Save (2.50 / 2) (#79)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 04:44:50 AM EST

With the type of problem Columbia had they would probably have been able to save them if they were aware that a normal reentry was impossible. Apollo 13 was in a much worse situation but they were still saved.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Not Really (none / 0) (#122)
by virg on Wed Feb 19, 2003 at 11:05:15 AM EST

> With the type of problem Columbia had they would probably have been able to save them if they were aware that a normal reentry was impossible. Apollo 13 was in a much worse situation but they were still saved.

Not really, on both counts. First, knowing that the wing was compromised might not have been sufficient reason to think that reentry was not possible. Hindsight is always 20/20, but nobody knew what was going to happen before the fact, and as several Russian flights and tile loss analysis on other shuttle flights demonstrate, heat shield compromise is difficult to predict.

Second, notwithstanding the movie, Apollo 13 was not in a worse situation by a long shot. They knew that there was a major malfunction ahead of time, they were significantly oversupplied for what they actually did (since they never landed on the Moon, they had fuel and oxygen aplenty for use in the rescue attempt) and if you recall, no rescue operation was mounted for them. They came home in their own vehicle, with only information, not supplies or other vehicles coming from the ground. Had they had the same problem (head shield compromise) that afflicted the shuttle, they'd have been dead as well.

Rescue from orbit is still essentially science fiction, because physics is unconcerned with the well-being of spacefarers. This is the main reason it takes so long to get a mission to happen. Once you're up there, you're pretty much on your own, and every astronaut who ever strapped into a rocket knows this (well, except Laika). It sucks to lose people brave enoguh to take such risks, but it will happen.

"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
They would have saved the crew. (2.50 / 2) (#94)
by labradore on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 11:51:29 PM EST

If NASA had known that there was a significant chance for loss of crew then there are many rescue scenarios available. They could have navigated to dock with the ISS for further inspection and a stay over until repairs could be made or until another shuttle was ready to ferry them home. For that matter, they could have stayed in orbit and transfered directly to an emergency-launched Discovery, Atlantis or Endeavor in a space-walk. Also, NASA may have been able to pay for the launch of a Soyuz capsule or two that could meet the shuttle in orbit and again do a crew transfer via space-walk, or from the ISS. There are probably other scenarios that laymen like me don't know about. It is very likely that NASA has already planned for such eventualities. I very much doubt that a NASA flight director would--for any reason--risk losing his crew if he knew there was even a small risk of tragedy.

Incidentally, the general level of mindless paranoia I have seen so far in the comments to the article is disturbing. Either K5's readership has come mentally unhinged or the bridge logo has attracted a throng of trolls.

[ Parent ]

Columbia rescue improbable (3.33 / 3) (#100)
by hucke on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 12:03:21 PM EST

Space.com and some of the newsmedia discussed possible rescue options that would have been available if the wing damage had been immediately known. None of them had much chance of success.

They could have navigated to dock with the ISS for further inspection and a stay over ...

No; the ISS was in a much higher orbit than Columbia, and the orbiter did not have sufficient fuel to move into the higher orbit and to match its velocity. Additionally, Columbia was the only orbiter that did not have a docking adapter compatible with those on the space station - so the astronauts would have had to spacewalk to it. They only had two pressure suits suitable for this - the bright orange suits the crew wore during liftoff aren't robust enough to withstand a complete vacuum for long.

For that matter, they could have stayed in orbit and transfered directly to an emergency-launched Discovery, Atlantis or Endeavor in a space-walk.

Possible, but difficult. NASA has stated that, in an emergency, they could outfit a shuttle for launch in about one week (skipping all of the usual tests) and send it up with its minimum crew of two. Doing it in less than a week would be impossible.

Assuming that they had gotten a second craft in orbit safely, they'd still have the difficulty of transferring the astronauts from the crippled vessel into the good one. Tethering the two vehicles together with a cable would be extremely dangerous, and they'd probably have to rely on a limited number of self-propelled "backpacks".

The odds were against any sort of rescue being successful, even if they had known.

matt hucke * graveyards of chicago - http://graveyards.com/
[ Parent ]

Not likely (4.00 / 2) (#103)
by doormat on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 03:11:10 PM EST

Columbia wouldnt have been able to last more than 18-19 days in space - oxygen fuel and food being the constraints. The decision about the foam debris wasnt made until day 12. So you'd have 5 days to launch. Not likely.

Cant dock with ISS, Columbia was to heavy and it didnt have the right equipment.

Soyuz can only hold 3 people. Thats why there are only 3 people on the ISS now, if something bad happened, 3 people can fit in the escape pod. Even two capsules wouldnt be enough.

Either K5's readership has come mentally unhinged or the bridge logo has attracted a throng of trolls.

-1 Disengenious =^)

[ Parent ]

You don't get it (4.66 / 3) (#80)
by QuickFox on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 05:27:51 AM EST

The reason they bring this up is that they don't know what to do. They've found a killer asteroid, it's heading our way, they can't decide if they should tell the world or keep it secret.

Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fi
So then (5.00 / 2) (#82)
by PullNoPunches on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 12:20:16 PM EST

regardless of the voting, we've actually all chosen poll option 2?


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

I'd want to know. (4.50 / 2) (#84)
by ZanThrax on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 12:51:28 PM EST

If I know, then I can start looting and hoarding now, rather than after the impact. (Odds are low that I'll be close enough to the impact point to be killed immediately.) While (most) everyone else is looting, killing, and raping at random, I'll be looking for weaponry, ammunition, survival gear and at least half a supermarket (maybe a large fuel supply if I can think of a way to transport it; the defensible location to hole up in I don't need to find, just get to.)

Hope springs eternal and all that.

We're a generation of adrenaline junkie twitch freaks with the attention span of gnats; to be considered fast paced, entertainment needs to approach sensory

Sure, nice plan (none / 0) (#112)
by Rogerborg on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 07:02:34 AM EST

And I'm sure you're right that nobody else will think of it.  The earth will be yours, ahahahaha.

</sarcasm>, it'll be someone a lot more ruthless and less geeky than you that paradigm shifts the fastest and gets the goodies.  Think organised criminals, including government ones.

That aside, even if you survive a year or so, if you haven't been preparing for years, then you're fucked.  Do you know how to purify water?  How and when and where to plant crops?  How to kill and dress a deer?  How to recognise a pregnant sheep?  How to work a lathe?

Better hole up in a library.  You'll need it.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

You don't need an entire library (none / 0) (#115)
by ZanThrax on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 09:39:11 AM EST

just certain books; having a variety of people in your enclave helps too. As to your specific questions: yes, yes, yes, sort of, yes.

We're a generation of adrenaline junkie twitch freaks with the attention span of gnats; to be considered fast paced, entertainment needs to approach sensory
[ Parent ]

Rand's mindset of total social control (3.66 / 3) (#93)
by guyd on Sun Feb 16, 2003 at 10:02:05 PM EST

Rand is one of the NWO think tanks. Full of people
who's fundamental belief system assumes that
total control of society by the elites is an
absolute given. So the question that fellow
is really considering, is this: Even if everyone
is going to die tomorrow, could we allow them to
forget we are their masters and reason for living?
His answer: No! Order and control must be
maintained regardless of any other circumstances.

Personally, if I knew we all had X days to live,
my partying would include a little elite-hunting.
By the time the asteroid arrived, there'd be a
whole New World Odor.

I imagine that would be a fairly common response,
and the Rand/NWO types know it. Another good
reason to keep the impending cataclysm quiet.

Oh, and btw. This is not an academic question.
There _is_ an impending cataclysm. Around 2007
when the Nth American continent natural gas runs
out, through to around 2015, when oil will have
become too scarce to support industrial society
and farming anywhere. Which means most of us
6 billion will be dying then. The elites know
this too, but are making sure it doesn't get
any public airplay. Think it though guys. What
would _you_ do, if you were the utterly ruthless
ultra-rich? How would you arrange for your own
(and your children's) future to be comfortable?
Rather than a radioactive hell from when the
final oil-wars went nuclear, with an implacably
rising radiation level due to all the ruined
nuke plants, waste dumps, rusting warheads, etc.
Over hundreds and thousands of years, all the
very long-lived isotopes _will_ escape into the
general environment. Lethal background radiation.

Point #1: You (the elites) have only a few years
left to implement the 'solution'. And every year
of continued resource consumption at our present
rate, equals a few hundred years of resources
for a _much_ smaller population. Which only needs
to be just big enough to maintain the technology
required to keep all those nuclear waste sites
secure and safe for, oh say, 300,000 years.

But don't tell anyone about this. We wouldn't
want too much rowdy partying - it would interfere
with our preparations.

Emphirical Philosophy Labs

Slightly hyperbolic.. (none / 0) (#97)
by ajduk on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 05:07:38 AM EST

Oh, and btw. This is not an academic question. There _is_ an impending cataclysm. Around 2007 when the Nth American continent natural gas runs out, through to around 2015, when oil will have become too scarce to support industrial society and farming anywhere.

I think you may be a bit optomistic on North American natural gas, looking at this season's prices.. and we may be about to get a real oil shock, as the Venezuela strike drags on, Iraq production goes out for a few months and Nigeria looks set for a strike as well.. the problem isn't that the data isn't in the public domain, it's just you need a degree in petroleum geology to tell fact from fiction in this area.

On the other hand, there is reasonable scope - especially in the US - for oil consumption savings; an aggressive program could get consumption down 30-40% in the western world without major lifestyle changes. Let's just not think about what will happen in India, China and Africa when oil hits $100/barrel. China is of course the wildcard here.

But when it comes to nuclear waste, you will note that the Chernobyl area is now an interesting wildlife park with little apparent effect from the radiation levels; reactor waste decays below ore levels within 300 years.

Frankly, one of the biggest problems is that everyone has been told (and I think this includes most of the elites) that there is no problem. Be careful of seeing conspiricies where incompetence will explain things..

[ Parent ]

Further reading... (none / 0) (#105)
by Fon2d2 on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 04:53:18 PM EST

That's quite interesting of you to mention natural gas as it's pretty much the same scenario Rifkin seemed to be laying out in "The Hydrogen Economy". In fact Rifkin went further to highlight the fact that most of the new power stations in the US are designed to burn natural gas. There's even a US News article that talks about this ("Kicking the Oil Habit" Feb 10th 2003). That article talks about wind, solar, biodiesel, and natural gas. Natural gas is one of the big things to catch on. That made me stop and think when Rifkin made the argument that it will only be buying us a small amount of time away from the coming oil crisis. But I had not heard anybody else stating that viewpoint yet, until your comment. So I'd like to know what sources you are reading so that I also may read them. I already know about the "Hubbert Curve" and peak production in the case of oil and indeed it's easy to find webpages on such material but I am wondering if you have any specific sources you could recommend concerning natural gas.

Another point in your comment I'd like to get at here is the high cost of agricultural production. Again this sounds like it's straight out of "The Hydrogen Economy". But again Rifkin goes further to say that the total amount of energy put into the production of a unit of food is far more than the energy contained in that food. That is to say the current amount of food production is only possible due to the easy access of oil. I take this further to mean that it's not renewable and can't fit easily into a scenario involving only renewable energy. The US News article "Kicking the Oil Habit" had an interesting comment about this. Basically it suggested that biodiesel might be suffering from the same problem: energy output is less than energy input. I never connected Rifkin's statement about the agribusiness to biodiesel until I saw that comment. Can anybody substantiate this? Things are actually even worse for agribusiness right now as they have to keep adding large amounts of phosphorous and other nutrients to replenish the soil at the rate they use it up. Conceivably, there's a breaking point here, and from what I understand, we are always sliding closer to it. As my dad (not a liberal) has pointed out, much of the Western US was not desert before the appearance of cattle ranches.

It would be nice to know how dependent the US farming industry is on oil. Does anybody know about any facts or figures concerning this?

[ Parent ]

On Natural Gas.. (none / 0) (#110)
by ajduk on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 05:53:17 AM EST

There are quite a few links on this page.

And if you want the energy industrie's investment banker's views, look at the research reports here.

Basically, when you produce natural gas, the amount you take is limited by demand and pipeline capacity. This tends to result in fairly flat supply for a long time (30 years for the US). All this time, the drillers are depleting the large fields and moving to smaller ones; you don't notice in the price, because technonogy improvements and the paying down of capital expendature keeps the price constant for a long time.

BUT (big but), natural gas, like other fossil fuels, is distributed logrithmically. Most of the gas is in the big fields. And once that depletes, you have to find 10 (for instance) smaller fields to replace it. And for each one of those 10, you have to find another 10 replacements. Quite simply, drilling suddenly has to increase exponentially to keep supply flat. Which is fine as long as the amount of drilling is less than the maximum capacity of the rigs. But when that capacity is exceeded, you have a problem; somehow you have to build an ever increasing number of rigs whilst working all the existing ones at full stretch. Time delays in the system make this impossable; production must drop. And if your electricity grid happens to run on gas..

[ Parent ]

References (none / 0) (#127)
by guyd on Mon Feb 24, 2003 at 09:36:08 PM EST

Since this story is old, I'd email you this direct, if I could. Reply to guyd(at)zip.com.au

Here are some references:
A lot of information re gas/oil depletion, and
social consequences are at http://dieoff.org.


There was also the maillist Brainfood' from
Jay Hanson. Since closed (he decided it was time to 'retire' to somewhere remote.) Final issues
of that discussed the natural gas cliff timing
(around 2007 in Nth America.)

A one-month long discussion forum (closed) archive (ran Mar-April 2002, don't know of an
open archive) at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/selfish_genes/

The decline of the age of oil, by Brian J. Fleay
  (explains EPR)
The Collapse of Complex Societies, by Joseph Tainter

Key phrase 'energy profit ratio' (EPR) - understand this, and its implications, and a
lot of energy issues become a lot clearer.
'Hydrogen economy' indeed! Another bit of newspeak. Hydrogen is not an energy _source_, its
a means of storing energy. And very inefficient
too. (Excepting thermonuclear fusion, anyway.)

Regarding the Rand pronouncement ('No warning
of comet doom'), this is interesting- (from
Something else truly amazing is taking place in the solar system at this
moment.  A huge comet is rounding the sun, a comet twice the size of
jupiter (about 22 times the size of earth).  Some have seen it at sunrise
and sunset; otherwise, it is not visible because it is occluded by solar
glare.  Essentially, it is coming from behind the sun and was first
observed by NASA less than two months ago.

NASA's solar observatory has released a number of pictures of this comet,
but those stopped just as a huge coronal mass ejection (an event which is
to the hydrogen bomb as the hydrogen bomb is to a firecracker) erupted from
the sun toward the comet.  Some call these things "sunspots."

This comet is passing within 9 million miles of the solar surface.  In
celestial terms, that is a very near miss.

You haven't heard about this, have you?

Remember the hullabaloo over Hale/Bopp and Levy/Shoemaker?  They were
pikers by comparison with what has been dubbed Comet "NEAT."

Why all the silence this time?

I have read a good deal of speculation on several different internet sites.
Some see it as biblical prophecy fulfilled (see Revelations - you might
agree).  Some consider this to be "Nibiru" or "Planet X," foretold by the
Mayans as passing through the solar system every 3600 years or so.  Some
consider this simply to be an awesome photo opportunity.

Some say the strange weather on Earth lately is the result of an effect
caused by the sun which in turn is responding to Comet NEAT.

Electromagnetic fields reach hundreds of millions of miles into space, you
see, and are generated by all celestial objects.  Influences occur at
distances far in excess of that between the sun and comet Neat or, for that
matter, between Earth and comet Neat.

The sun has a regularly-repeating solar "sunspot" activity cycle of
approximately 11 years.  2000 was to have been the most recent peak.  Solar
activity, rather than dropping off in year 12, as it always has, has
continued to rise ever since.

Earth's magnetic field has been weakening in an accelerating fashion of
late.  The North Pole, which wanders anyway, has traveled almost as far in
the past 20 years as it did in the 100 years prior to that, when it was
located in Canada's northern Yukon Territory.

Some hypothesize that Earth's poles reverse when its magnetic field reaches
zero.  The geological record proves the poles have shifted many times down
through the history of the Earth (metal flakes in lava align with the
magnetic field, to be frozen in place when the lava cools, you see, just
like the needle in a compass).  Coincidence?  Perhaps.

Maybe it is nothing.  Maybe it is something.  If something, it could be the
most significant occurrence in recorded human history.

Generally, the concern is not that Comet NEAT will strike Earth or even
come near us (though I have yet to see a good description of its path
relative to Earth).  Rather, the concern is for the effect upon us through
the electromagnetic interaction between it and Earth and the Sun.  There is
a secondary concern that something this huge could have smaller objects
following in its wake, or that pieces of it broke off during the massive
solar flare when it passed near the Sun, pieces that might find their way
to Earth.  "Planet buster" asteroids can be as small as 1/3 mile in

Just five days ago, a Rand Corporation (government think tank) scientist,
Dr. Geoffrey Summer, publicly stated that secrecy would be the best option
if it were discovered that an asteroid were about to hit the earth: 
"Overreaction not just by the public but by policy-makers scurrying around
before the thing actually hits because we can't do anything about it anyway
... to a large extent you are better off not adding to your social costs."

(Guy: I read the above article: Rand wonk advising 'silence in face of
impending catastrophe'. Thought it was a very odd (and wrong) thing to
bother saying. Now I presume that pronouncement was related to NEAT.
But related _how_?)

Go here for one of NASA's official web pages carrying photographs of this
comet:  http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/hotshots/2003_02_12/

Something tells me you should take a look right now, though.  Who knows if
this will be available even tomorrow?

For the moment, my question is, "Why is there no media coverage of Comet

Of course, we all know how paranoid I am.


"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright ©2003, Edgar J. Steele
Emphirical Philosophy Labs
[ Parent ]

Humans are extinction proof. (4.33 / 3) (#95)
by StrifeZ on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 01:51:01 AM EST

Human intelligence makes us virtually extinction proof. Even if another K-T Boundry sized event occured (as in the combination of a resurgent active volcano count and a 6 mile asteroid), we'd probably survive. The K-T asteroid hit with the force of some 10 billion Hiroshima bombs and the crater was the size of Yucatan and the shockwave wouldnt have extend farther than Texas. In that case, physical planetary damage would be localized. But radioactive fallout, disruped climate and a dirt soaked atmosphere would be the most immediate problems. But nature has made us extinction proof because we poses something no other animal on earth has ever had - creative intelligence. We'll have to change they way we live of course : like relying more on nuclear power, and our eating habits, like eating more fish and less cows. Less hardy forms of plant life would be threatened as well, but we could genetically engineer both more hardy plants and bovine subspieces that could digest them. Regardless, short of an asteroid which fractures the planet into pieces, human kind will not ever go extinct. Our ability to adapt has kept us and our direct predacessors alive for some 5 million years. We've seen the worst of the ice age, and we hadnt even created civilization yet. Now with the power of technology and civilization, we can create a measured response to any threat.

Us and the cockroaches, huh? (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by Rhinobird on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 03:59:17 AM EST

"If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
[ Parent ]
Radioactive fallout? (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by bunsen on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 02:27:31 PM EST

From an asteroid? Huh?

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]
bacteria have better track record (4.66 / 3) (#104)
by Fen on Mon Feb 17, 2003 at 03:46:15 PM EST

They've been through much more. And I don't see how a fragile decimal-using species is extinction-proof.
[ Parent ]
But bacteria don't use hex! NT (none / 0) (#118)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 03:34:00 PM EST

Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Well that's just great... (3.00 / 1) (#107)
by persephone on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 12:31:55 AM EST

If it's not an earth desyroying asteroid, then it's the chance of a nuclear war between the US and North Korea...or maybe the unleashing of biological and chemical weapons by the US and Iraq... Do you think duct tape and plastic sheeting works against asteroids?
~The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters~
North Korea, HA! (none / 0) (#109)
by StrifeZ on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 01:56:11 AM EST

A nuclear war between US and North Korea would be a joke. We have 10,000 nuclear warheads that can reach any place in the world, and bombs big enough to, just with one thermonuclear bomb, consume all of north korea.

The ultimate outcome between a US/North Korea war would never be in doubt. It is merely a matter of making it as least bloody as possible.

I read a few weeks ago that a Senior Pentagon planner said that in the event of convential war with North Korea, they believe they could destroy 90%of the heavily fortified NK side of the DMZ in the first few hours of the war using F-15Es, F-18s, F-16s, JDAMs, Predators and Patriots. The South Korean military isnt defenseless either. After we destroyed much of North Korea's fortifications and war machine, South Korea, with some Apache Longbows we donate could probably finish the job.

One thing we've learned from the gulf war and was repeated again in Afghanistan is that the enemy is more often than not, scared shitless to surrender (the regulars at least) by overwhelming blitzes.

Then again, like the chineese, north korea couldnt build a stop watch unless they stole the plans for it from some one else.

If there is to be a war against south korea, it would be in the best interest of the US to delay it until 2005 when the first ships with the anti-ICBM launchers will be ready.

Besides, North Korea would know, if they ever thought about nuking, we'd kill them all minutes later, and no matter how much rhetoric they spout, having your skin turn to ash hurts like hell.

[ Parent ]
the CHINESE (none / 0) (#124)
by rustball on Wed Feb 19, 2003 at 12:33:04 PM EST

Then again, like the chineese, north korea couldnt build a stop watch unless they stole the plans for it from some one else.
The US or the West hardly has a monopoly on technological prowess. China is an ancient civilization that once was far more advanced than us western european barbarians. Only since the 15th century has the West held any technological superiority vis-a-vis the rest of the world. 600 years out of thousands. Keep your racist doctrines to yourself, buddyboy.

[ Parent ]
Possible ragnaroks (none / 0) (#126)
by locke baron on Thu Feb 20, 2003 at 06:44:05 AM EST

Well, asteroids could conceivably annihilate humanity, and nuclear war has that potential too (though NK's nuke arsenal isn't big enough, and the US would have nuked NK into a cinder long before expending enough ordnance to risk it), but chem and bio? Are you really concerned about that?

Chemical weapons are local in effect. They're deadly as hell, but only over a close range. A chem bomb would be unlikely to kill significantly more people than a large conventional bomb.

As for bioweapons, which ones? Plague is treatable, anthrax and ebola, while deadly, aren't very contagious. Tularemia isn't all that deadly, and is curable besides, and common bugs like strep and staph are crapshoots: while they could cause something ugly like necrotizing fasciitis or invasive staphylococcus infections, they're more likely to cause mild illness, and common antibiotics destroy them easily anyway. The only one that scares me is variola, and it's not deadly enough to be a world-ender (a disease has to both spread as virulently as influenza or variola, and kill as well as ebola to be a really good doomsday bug). Besides, if push comes to shove, there's a pretty good chance that ring vaccination can contain variola today as well as it did forty years ago. In short, I wouldn't be worried about bioweapons, even the worst ones, taking down the entire planet if used by Iraq, and the US would sooner nuke than bug-bomb.

Anyway, just felt the need to dispel the myth that the C and B components of 'CBR' or 'NBC' are doomsday devices. I'll agree on the scariness of irresponsible 'N' use, however.

Micro$oft uses Quake clannies to wage war on Iraq! - explodingheadboy
[ Parent ]

Would have a high social cost... (none / 0) (#116)
by Niha on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 11:16:33 AM EST

...for anyone that Sommer was kicking?

I vote numba thwee ! (1.00 / 2) (#121)
by Joey Shabadu on Tue Feb 18, 2003 at 06:57:51 PM EST


Idea (none / 0) (#125)
by Namagomi on Wed Feb 19, 2003 at 04:44:43 PM EST

Next time, try pulling this story while you "Pull No Punches" I have no idea how this sensationalism got posted =P

There is no #nekomimi cabal.
The Social Costs of Human Extinction | 127 comments (120 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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