GLOBAL DISASTERS

 

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THE ALIENS ARE COMING!

Well, not really.  When we think about alien invasion, we think about movies or books, such as War of the Worlds, V, or Aliens.  When scientists think about an alien invasion, any attempt at relating a real invasion to the movies is just nonsense.  If any alien invasion  did  occur, we would probably not even know it until it already happened.

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Alien invasions in the world of science fiction depict evil empires that seek to destroy mankind, or monstrous creatures who kill humans for sport or food.  The truth is that any alien culture would have to travel a tremendous distance to get here, and if they could, would be capable of highly advanced physics.  If they were hostile, they could wipe us off the face of the earth just like an ant.  On the other hand, being that highly advanced, they would have no reason to attack us because they would have no use for war.

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It is highly unlikely this scenario would ever take place, and if it did, aliens could just introduce a virus or contagion that would kill us off before they even arrived.  Some UFOlogists believe events such as this have already taken place.  There is some credibility by scientists that some meteors or comets could contain alien viruses, germs, or bacteria that came from somewhere else in the solar system.

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But for now, I think we’re all safe from any little green, oh I mean “gray” men from taking over.  On that note, I’m heading away for the weekend at the family camp in the thousand islands.  Have a great 4th of July weekend.  We’ll see you on July 13th, 2015.

 

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TOO HOT TO HANDLE

Earth is the only planet in the universe that we are 100% sure there is life; all the more reason why we should treat it more kindly.  Did you know that everyday we live in the danger of losing it?  There are several reasons that the Earth could cease to exist tomorrow, and some are self contributory, and can be avoided.  This week we’ll explore some of the myths and realities of global alienation, and what it would really take to make us all extinct.  Cheery thought, huh?

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One of our biggest self disasters is the danger of Global Warming.  There has been a raging debate on whether it is even real or not, but no matter what you believe, you can’t deny the Earth is getting warmer, and not because of solar radiation or flares.  A study was done recently, and proved that solar irradiation hasn’t changed since 1978.

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Since 1880, CO2 levels have tripled, caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and increased agricultural production.  CO2 and Methane, the two leading contributory gases to global warming have increased by 36% and 148% since 1750.  That is the highest in 800,000 years.  Climate change has differing effects, depending on where you live, ranging from rising sea levels, desert like conditions, torrential rainfall, and melting of sea ice.  It can cause violent storms, such as hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes.

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Some global warming occurs naturally, in the form of animal waste, and volcanic activity.  It is man’s industrial activity that has contributed the most to the crisis, however.  Mars was believed once to hold water, but global warming may be one cause why life didn’t develop there.  Venus has volcanic activity that produces a global warming effect that has gone wild.  If we don’t stop our current trend, the world will be unlivable in about 80-100 years, with CO2 levels so high, they could choke us all.

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Through energy alternatives we’ll be able to reclaim our planet, but only if we work together as a race.  Wind and solar power, for instance, are some promising alternatives.

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Another recent self-induced global disaster in the making is the very real threat of nuclear war.  After stealing technology from the Germans, the American military began its Manhattan Project, and built the first two nuclear bombs.  Edward Teller, the father of the H-bomb. touted that it was the “bomb to end all wars.”  Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.  Ever since the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan on Aug. 6th and 9th, 1945, nuclear war has become a very real threat, even today.  129,000 civilians were killed that day, and more developed radiation sickness and died days and even years later.

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After that the Soviet Union started producing ballistic missiles in 1949, followed by; United Kingdom in 1952, France in 1960, and China in 1964.  Israel joined the superpowers in the late 1960’s, and Pakistan in 1998.  The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought a reduced threat to the cold war, with de-escalation of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and a sense that this kind of cataclysm would not happen.

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That, however, was a false promise, as we have seen other nations like Iran and North Korea begin on nuclear production, and the rise of terrorist organizations.  All we need is for one group of terrorists to get a hold of a missile and detonate it in a major city, and global war will be inevitable.

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We can maintain a balance of power, but even that has its disadvantages.  Aging systems, and the possibility of an accident have already been documented.  The Soviet Union accidentally launched a missile several years ago, and not one American knew about it until after it was aborted.

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Tomorrow, we will look at some more ways Earth could cease to exist; mass extinction, and asteroid collisions.  Until then, here are today’s links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_warfare

 

 

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OUR SPECIAL LITTLE BALL OF WATER

We all know that life depends on water; species evolved out of our oceans, and created the life we see today.  But did you know that humans have killed off 1000 of those species, and 322 since 1750?  The current mass extinction is caused by man-made changes  to the environment, such as poaching, deforestation, overfishing, and global warming.

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Endangered species such as rhinos, apes and monkeys, large predators, and pachyderms are being hunted or driven out of their habitats.  75% of all the species we know will be lost in two generations time, unless solutions are implemented.  Eating less meat and growing more crops is a start, but it will take a global a conservation effort to achieve success.  Various insects, such as honeybees are needed to pollinate crops, and for nutrient cycling and decomposition.

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More than half of the planet’s land is used for cities, logging, and food.  If we let our vital species die out, the planet won’t be habitable for millions of years, and we will become extinct in a very short time.

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Hand and hand with mass extinctions are asteroids, comets, and meteorites.  It was an asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs in the Chicxulub Impact 66 millions years ago.  These stellar objects occur quite often, and can have devastating effects.  An asteroid 10 km wide can cause global disaster, turning the Earth into a blazing inferno, and cause tsunamis 1000  feet high.  The Tunguska Event, in Siberia, Russia in 1908, caused extensive damage, but fortunately there were no casualties, due to its extremely rural location.

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They weren’t so lucky in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013.  A not as destructive meteor known as an air burst exploded over the city, causing extensive damage and injuries, but no one was killed.  We’ve learned a better perspective of impacts from the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Impact on Jupiter.  An asteroid 20 feet across can have as much kinetic energy as a nuclear bomb.  Asteroids 1 km wide come once every 500,000 years, 5 km wide every 20 million years, and planet killers, such as the one that hit the dinosaurs, every 66 million years, which means we are probably due within the next 500-1000 years or so.

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Fortunately, all is not grim in this area.  We are constantly developing new ways to track asteroids, and eventually deflect them or destroy them all together, and even mine them if we need to.  Man is an innovator, and has adapted to many different types of environments, and our future will be no different from our past; just a little more considerate to our mother nature.

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Tomorrow, we’ll look at some threats from outside ourselves, in our own solar system, Solar flares, the death of the sun, and interplanetary collisions.  Until then, here are today’s links:

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/scientists-warn-we-are-approaching-next-mass-extinction

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/20/world/mass-extinction-animals/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_event

http://nineplanets.org/meteorites.html

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THE SUN, THE MOON AND OTHER THINGS

The sun is a giver of life and it can be a giver of death as well, as we have seen this week with recent forest fires out the West.  Solar flares are sudden flashes observed over the sun’s surface, and are about 1/6th of the solar energy put out by the sun every second.  They are often followed by coronal mass ejections that typically reach Earth in about a day or two.  X-rays and UV radiation produced by them can affect the ionosphere and disrupt long-range radio communication, radars, and other electronic devices.

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They were first observed in 1859 by Richard Christopher Carrington.  There haven’t been strong enough mass ejections to cause extensive damage in current history.  There was one in the late 1800’s that cause telegraph lines to split and burn, but a catastrophic one has yet to occur.  This is a real danger for us here on Earth; one extremely massive solar ejection could wipe out life, and it would be uninhabitable for millions of years.  A semi-extreme one could wipe out our power grids and send us back to the stone age.

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Considering we get through all that; would we still be safe?  The answer is no, because in about I billion years the sun will grow so hot, it will fry everything here.  The oceans would evaporate, and the planet will become a lifeless desert.  In 5-8 billion years, the sun will become a red giant, and swallow Mercury and Venus.  As it grows, Earth will be a charred piece of rock.

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But even though this is the end of us, there may be hope.  Some moon of Jupiter or Saturn may become the next Earth.  Titan and Europa are both viable prospects for the next generation of life elsewhere in our solar system.  Eventually, however, even they will die, as the sun becomes a small white dwarf.

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The moon is responsible for our tides and weather.  The gravitational pull that the moon and Earth has against one another causes the change of seasons.  Without it, our world would radically change.  But did you know that the moon is moving away from us at a rate of 1 1/2″ a year, the same rate at which fingernails grow.

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It is believed that the moon was once another world that collided with us, and caused it to spin.  In the beginning, hours were only 5 hours long, and slowed to 24 over time.  Days get longer at a rate of 19 hours every 4.5 billion years.

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Speaking of collisions, did you know that the solar system in the beginning had many more planets to it?  Several of these collided to form the bigger planets we know today.  Planetary collisions, although relatively common in the early solar system, are less likely to happen now.  Scientists do believe, however, that eventually Earth’s orbit will shift, causing a wobble effect, and collide with any of the three inner planets.

Solar System --- Image by © Denis Scott/Corbis
Solar System — Image by © Denis Scott/Corbis

So don’t worry yet!  Most of these types of disasters don’t occur that often, and most likely not during your lifetime.  Tomorrow we will be investigating more interstellar mayhem-Gamma ray bursts and Quasars.  Until then, here are the links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_flare

http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/flare.htm

http://io9.com/what-the-death-of-the-sun-will-look-like-471796727

http://www.space.com/23154-death-of-sun-will-destroy-earth-infographic.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1192274/Earth-collide-Mars-wobble-solar-system.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-12311119

 

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LIFE IN A MICROWAVE

Gamma ray radiation is all around us.  It comes from our sun, and is propelled through space from all directions, and from different places.  Gamma ray bursts can come from quasars or supernovas. and can be very destructive for anything in their paths.

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Quasars are distant objects powered by black holes a billion times more massive than our sun.  They can emit millions, billion, or even trillions of electron volts.  The energy from them exceeds the total light of all stars within a galaxy.  They emit a beam of light that can extend millions of light years away, and anything within that beam would be toast.

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A gamma ray burst can also occur in some supernova, but not as strong as a Quasar.  A 10 second gamma ray burst could deplete 25% of the ozone layer, sending ultraviolet light toward the Earth, first frying it, and then blocking out light, and turning the earth into a solid ball of ice.  They usually occur every 5 millions years, and it is believed that in the 8th century there was one, so don’t expect one anytime soon.

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Ultraviolet rays also bombard us daily, and can cause Melanoma, a type of skin cancer.  Every year the planet has gotten a little warmer, and ultraviolet radiation is considered a real threat to our survival.  Astronauts also deal with dangerous cosmic rays, and wear special protective suits that shield them from destructive rays.

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Tomorrow, we will look at a type of disaster right out of science fiction-alien invasion.  If aliens were a real threat, how would we handle it?  Find out tomorrow.  Until then, here are the links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasar

http://www.space.com/13838-nasa-gamma-ray-targets-blazars-fermi.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray

 

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SCIENCE FICTION AND SCIENCE REALITY

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