Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space

Astronaut: 'Single-Planet Species Don't Last' 921

Posted by michael
from the rated-w-for-wiped-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle astronaut John Young, due to retire in two weeks, says that the human species is in danger of becoming extinct: 'The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455. How does that relate? You're 10 times more likely to get wiped out by a civilization-ending event in the next 100 years than you are getting killed in a commercial airline crash.' He says that the technologies needed to colonize the solar system will help people survive through disasters on Earth. Young has written about this topic before in an essay called 'The Big Picture'." In related news, the Shuttle overhaul program is on track for a May 2005 launch.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Astronaut: 'Single-Planet Species Don't Last'

Comments Filter:
  • Prove it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stecoop (759508) * on Friday December 17, 2004 @11:58AM (#11116134) Journal
    What other higher order specie that has multi planet colonization did he do his evaluation against? What was the success rate of the multi planet effort - would it have been better to spend those resources maintaining quality on one planet?

    So he writes about volcanic activity, planetoid impacts and solar disasters. What if we spent all our resources on keeping the planet safe? We could drill out pressure of volcanoes and build super bombs for planetoids. If our sun goes all bets are off though we need to find another solar system but I bet we could figure out something in 4.5 billion years.

    But all in all he is correct I am just point out a con; however, I don't think that ~5 billion people could be wiped out by any single event that left the planet habitable afterwards.
    • Re:Prove it (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bimo_Dude (178966)
      It seems to me that the real threat to the species is the species itself. At some point, we will probably make ourselves extinct, as well as make the planet uninhabitable. What a shame.
      • Re:Prove it (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:34PM (#11116606)
        It seems to me that the real threat to the species is the species itself.

        I've been of this thought for a long time. Anybody who passed high school biology should realize that the human race is already in serious shape. Think about it:
        • Starvation - In nature populations are kept in check by starvation. Starvation is running rampant in third world countries. The world population is growing so rapidly that it's becoming more and more difficult to adequately feed everybody.
        • Disease - In nature populations are thinned out by disease. Mankind has managed to effectively fight disease for decades and thereby help increase the population. The flu used to kill hundreds of thousands of people but now it's more of an inconvenience. Smallpox is all but gone. Nature responds to this by introducing AIDS, SARS, Ebola, etc. If the avian flu manages to jump into the human species (not unlikely) then new flu outbreaks could kill millions [seniorjournal.com].
        • Fertility - The fertility levels in many species drop when they become overpopulated. Mankind has done a good job of creating fertility drugs, etc. to allow continued growth of the population. Mankind seems to think it's a right to have offspring, despite what nature may be telling them.
        • Homosexuality - There are theories that nature uses homosexuality to help control population sizes. The basic theory is that when a population reaches a size that can no longer be naturally supported by the environment that homosexual tendencies become more prevelant. Of course it could just be that the percentage of gay people hasn't changed, it's just that there are more now since the overall population is growing.
        IMHO these are all signs that the human population is reaching a breaking point. It may not happen in the next 50 years but it wouldn't surprise me at all if within the next 200 years or so there's some major population-thinning event like a pandemic, massive starvation, etc.
        • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Interesting)

          by arminw (717974)
          ...population is growing so rapidly...

          What a bunch of BS. There were fear mongers 40-50 years ago telling us about the population bomb and that before the year 2000 comes the world will be depopulated by hunger and disease and other dreadful stuff. Well we are still here and the world's people's living conditions have much improved, abeit much more slowly than could have been the case if human greed for wealth and power were not present.
        • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DunbarTheInept (764)

          Of course it could just be that the percentage of gay people hasn't changed, it's just that there are more now since the overall population is growing.

          A more likely explanation is that the percentage hasn't changed but the social acceptability of admitting to homosexuality has, hence it is being more accurately reported now.

        • Re:Prove it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hostyle (773991) on Friday December 17, 2004 @01:17PM (#11117108)

          Starvation - In nature populations are kept in check by starvation. Starvation is running rampant in third world countries. The world population is growing so rapidly that it's becoming more and more difficult to adequately feed everybody.

          The world has more than enough food to feed everyone on it many times over - food doesn't just run out, its a highly renewable resource. The problem is greed - human, corporate and government greed. "Its our food, if you want it pay us for it" attitudes. There are food surplus "mountains" in every first world country, doing nothing but rotting. Other problems are war - take Sudan for instance, where lots of relief food arrives, but bever reaches those who need it. Its stolen or destroyed by the warlords.

        • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ubergrendle (531719)
          That's funny, I was thinking that ALL of your topics have improved dramatically over the past 100, and 50, and even 25 year periods.

          1. Starvation - It has pretty much been conclusively proven that we have FAR MORE than enough food to feed everyone on the planet. The issue is market dynamics, and governmental control. We can feed the people in Bangladesh, Somalia, Haiti, etc... if there were a stable environment to deliver food in. This is a human-created problem. Food supply is NOT the problem.

          2. Dise
    • Re:Prove it (Score:5, Funny)

      by I don't want to spen (638810) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:11PM (#11116294) Journal
      ... I don't think that ~5 billion people could be wiped out by any single event that left the planet habitable afterwards...
      You don't work in the PR department for the dinosaur government do you?
      • Re:Prove it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by B'Trey (111263) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:46PM (#11116772)
        Dinosaur's were huge and highly specialized for their environment. They were vulnerable to any serious alteration to their habitat. Humans are the ultimate in generalists. We can survive in anything from tropical jungles to frozen tundra. Starvation due to huge decreases in the amount of food available would sharply reduce our population, but if anything more advanced than insects and grasses survive, there's every reason to believe we will too. Philosophers are divided on whether or not this is a good thing.
        • Re:Prove it (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jc42 (318812) on Friday December 17, 2004 @04:25PM (#11119418) Homepage Journal
          Dinosaur's were huge and highly specialized for their environment

          True of the huge dinos that are the media image. But at least a half dozen dinosaur species survived the big crash, roughly the same number as for mammals. They were all in the branch that we now call "birds", of course. They weren't big or specialized. The best modern equivalent would probably be something like a crow, one of the ultimate "generalist" species. The surviving mammals were all more or less like rats and shrews, of course. In the next such disaster, it'll be mostly species like those that survive.

          Humans are generalists, of course. But in a similar disaster, we'd probably be at a disadvantage to crows and rats. This is mostly because of our size, which will be a problem in a world with a shortage of food. But our brain does give us an advantage, so maybe we'd survive.

          Anyway, another asteroid impact will happen. Maybe next week, maybe 100 million years from now, but it's coming. Astronomers know of around 1000 rocks with sizes > 1 km in Earth-crossing orbits, and reasonable estimates are another 500-1000 more exist. That's actually not very many, and chances of an impact in any one year are quite small. But some of them are going to hit our planet some time in the future.

          Maybe some of us will be alive to see it ...
    • by MooseByte (751829) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:15PM (#11116353)

      "What other higher order species that has multi planet colonization did he do his evaluation against?"

      The Great Old Ones [cthulhu.org] and their minions? Those Mi-Go are pretty hardy buggers.

      On the specifics of this report's premise, it seems to me to be a hell of a lot cheaper (and more realistic at the present) to ensure humanity's survival by being able to "Go Deep". If the we could harness geothermal power down deep, we could power lights that could grow plants in our subterranean cities, etc. and keep ourselves going.

      Sure we'd end up living on glowing fungus in the end, and evolve big giant eyes and go all pasty-white pale, but then when we travel back in time to visit Earth in the 1960s-80s we'll look like we're supposed to.

      Must be Friday. I need a drink.

      ---

      Cthulhu holiday songs [cthulhulives.org], for the gift that keeps on loathing.

    • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jhon (241832) *

      What other higher order specie that has multi planet colonization did he do his evaluation against? What was the success rate of the multi planet effort - would it have been better to spend those resources maintaining quality on one planet?

      I don't think he needs to. There have been several events in our worlds past that would have wiped us out were we around -- and ended up wiping out most everything alive at the time.

      I question the "1:455" chance for us to get wiped out in the next 100 years, but what

    • Re:Prove it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Struct (660658) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:20PM (#11116416)
      I agree, we definitely could go a long way to defending the planet from these types of events, and it's certainly not a bad idea to pursue that. But in the end, it comes back to all of our eggs being in one basket. It's hard to comprehend, much less respond to every potential threat that might come along and wipe out the planet. As Mr. Miyagi says, 'best defense - no be there'.

      I'd also go so far as to say that colonizing other planets is now the most important thing mankind can achieve. Purely from the perspective of preserving our species, it's the next critical step. If you consider how susceptible we are not only to external threats (meteors, epidemics, space locusts, etc), but also just the day-to-day concerns that we might accidentally annihilate ourselves with the war-de-jour, the best way to increase our chances for survival is to spread out a little bit and prevent an accident like that from doing us all in at once. Bottom line is, if you're all about doing something great for mankind, this is a really important problem to solve.
      • Re:Prove it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:58PM (#11116915) Homepage
        I'd also go so far as to say that colonizing other planets is now the most important thing mankind can achieve. Purely from the perspective of preserving our species, it's the next critical step.

        While I believe you are correct, I don't think mankind is there yet. Look at it in perspective. What we're talking about here would take global cooperation of the scale never seen before. We can't even wipe out AIDS or world hunger or war, how are we going to work together to colonize another planet?

        I'm reminded of Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot," and the profound wisdom of his words:


        "The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds."


        How do you convince a culture like that to put aside the generations of bigotry and hatred, and to work together for something truly noble? Think about your target audience. You have 10th generation racists, anti-gay bigots, xenophobic taxpayers who all demand that their way be the way because "I pay taxes, dammit!"

        In one sense, you can look back through history and believe that mankind has come a great distance, but when you consider things on a cosmic scale, you realize we've barely advanced at all. We still have war, racism, hatred, disease, even though eliminating all of those things has been without our reach for several decades now.

        In the end, it will not be the asteroid that dooms us. The asteroid is merely a statistical inevitability. They've hit before and they'll hit again. What will really doom us is our self-absorbed inability to recognize the inevitability of our impending doom, and act on it. Our own selfish need to be "on top" of this rock will prevent us from conceiving of an existance beyond this rock. We will continue going on, pretending that maybe that last asteroid was really the last one, and the next 4.5 billion years will be smooth sailing. Could we really be that naive? I believe, "yes."
        • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Insightful)

          No doubt, everything you're saying here is 100% true. Whether or not the world will ever be unified enough to focus their collective attention on a problem like this is way up in the air. Still, it doesn't take a unified world to accomplish something great, and we'll probably still be fighting disease and poverty the same day we begin colonizing another planet (assuming it ever happens, of course).

          Purely from a survival perspective, it makes the most sense to attack the colonization problem as early as p
        • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FleaPlus (6935)
          Look at it in perspective. What we're talking about here would take global cooperation of the scale never seen before. We can't even wipe out AIDS or world hunger or war, how are we going to work together to colonize another planet?

          Think about the last time there was a massive wave of remote settlement (1500s-1700s). How much did they rely on global cooperation?

          Granted, it's important to get launch costs low so that the two efforts can begin to become comparable.
    • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Informative)

      by rusty0101 (565565)
      I would just be happy to prove him wrong by living through the next hundred years.

      Part of the issue with a couple of them is that a super-volcano eruption can easily make earth 'habitable' but not for us.

      Likewise for asteroid impacts.

      Leaving the earth "Habitable" does not mean that we can comfortably (or for that matter uncomfortably) live on earth for some period after the event. Earth happens to be "habitable" for a lot of creatures that happen to be extinct because of our own hand right now. Dodos, Pa
      • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Insightful)

        by berj (754323)
        The fact that we are at the top of the food chart at the moment doesn't mean that we have to be here.

        This happens to be one of my pet peeves. Anyone who thinks that humans are at the top of the (supposed) food chain (or chart as you call it) has never been stalked by a cougar or a bear.

        I'm not sure when/where the idea of a food chain with a bottom and a top arose but it's poppycock. There is a food *cycle* in which every thing is food for something else (what do you think happens when you die and they

      • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kombat (93720)
        Launching a 'super bomb' from earth is a nice idea, but it would be better to have such devices off earth at the time they are needed. (Get them out of the gravitational hole where you have a really small launch window to get them on target.) This means you now have to contend with the activists who are going to fight against the launching of whatever type of 'super-bomb' you plan on putting into orbit. Have fun.

        If done early enough, they wouldn't have to be "super bombs." They could simply be small thru
        • Better yet... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Firethorn (177587) *
          If it has anything useful, use the thrusters to put it into a orbit.

          One of the neat ideas I've read about involved putting an asteroid on a repeating earth-mars course. You put a base on the asteroid, using the asteriod as shielding. You then use smaller vessels as a shuttle, so you don't have to accelerate that much mass. Use hydroponics and such to keep the supplies required as low as possible.
    • Re:Prove it (Score:3, Insightful)


      You are absolutely right. He does not have one single shred of evidence to back up his wild postulations about multi-planet species.

      I am sure you will join me in recommending that we immediatly fund a large, well organized effort to do further investigation into these so-called "colonizations", including multiple on-site visits, and perhaps permanent research stations to study any indigenous species we find during this effort.

  • Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by October_30th (531777) on Friday December 17, 2004 @11:59AM (#11116149) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad to see that the unmanned-space-exploration-mafia has not been able to completely silence the drive for manned space exploration - yet. I have no doubt that if nothing changes drastically, that will happen eventually. There're just too many "good political reasons" to kill the expensive and risky (PR-wise) manned space program. After all, taking the fall for dead astronauts could kill anybody's career...

    Yes. Manned missions are risky and expensive. Unmanned and remotely controlled probes are just fine and dandy and they yield plenty of useful information about the conditions in space and on other planets, but what's that information good for if we're never going to leave our planet and/or when we're going to get hit by an extinction level event?

    As a species we have definitely become too concerned about safety in exploration. Can't shoot people up to space because they might get killed? Well, duh? What if the explorers like Magellan or Vasco da Game had thought about it like that?

    The saddest comment I once got was: "we'll never be able to colonize other planets because the conditions are so fundamentally hostile, so let's not waste any funds/effort on manned space flights." What the hell happened to the human will to explore and survive? What's the point in sending out probes if the information gained will certainly be lost in the (near) future when the big one hits the earth?

    • This is a good reason that privately funded space travel needs to "explode". When space flight becomes less expensive, and companies can drive exploration as much as anyone else, then steps will truly be made in this realm. Waiting on NASA just isn't cutting it these days.
    • Re:Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mordors9 (665662) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:12PM (#11116303)
      Obviously we need to greatly expand our NASA budget and start preparing to colonize other planets... wait, you don't think that is the point of scaremongering us, is it?
  • 1 in 455? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WPIDalamar (122110) on Friday December 17, 2004 @11:59AM (#11116150) Homepage

    Just cause some retired guy in an interview says it, doesn't make it true.
    • Re:1 in 455? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ViolentGreen (704134) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:07PM (#11116244)
      Seriously... Why the human race be more likely to be destroyed by a geological or cosmological event in the next 100 years than in the past 3000 or so of recorded history?
    • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@nospam.freeshell.org> on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:35PM (#11116612) Homepage Journal
      He's neglected to mention some things from the first figure.

      First of all, it's a 1 in 455 chance of being wiped out by asteroids, volcanic activity, comets, vampires, dark elves, zombies, or McDonald's, but he seemed to convenienly leave off the end of the list.

      Secondly, he forgot to mention that this takes into account the fact that all humans who have not broken the code of the Greblor (roughly 96.3%) will be delivered by the benevolent lizard Godzilla back unto our home planet - a place of safety and prosperity in another dimension. Only the evil, self-destructive humans will remain.

      Further, it is predicted that 97.1% of those who stay will be delivered in the second coming of Godzilla after having repented of their evil ways.

      So as you can see, most of us have nothing to worry about. They neglected to mention the other parts of the report, which actually explain why the numbers are obviously true.
  • by hkb (777908) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:00PM (#11116155)
    You're 10 times more likely to get wiped out by a civilization-ending event in the next 100 years than you are getting killed in a commercial airline crash.

    I've heard of numerous commercial airline fatalities in the news. Can't say I've heard of any civilization-ending events in my lifetime.

    Sounds like FUD to me.
    • by doi (584455) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:02PM (#11116185)
      Can't say I've heard of any civilization-ending events in my lifetime.

      Well, duh.

    • Despite the news, airplanes are safer per passenger than I think any other means of travel. Maybe rail is safer, I don't know. To my understanding, automobiles are quite a bit less safe than airplanes.
    • Re:Odds are off (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chirs (87576) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:19PM (#11116403)
      Lets think about the stats for a bit to see why your statement doesn't logically imply anything.

      Consider that the number of people involved in any particular crash is quite low compared to the number of people on the planet. Thus, while there may be multiple crashes in any given period, the chances of *you* being killed in that crash are quite low.

      On the other hand, if you have a single civilization-ending event, by definition the chances of it affecting you are quite high.

      So to estimate the impact on *you* in particular, you need to compare

      (number of people killed in plane crashes)/(total number of people on earth)*(chance of a plane crashing)

      vs

      (number of people affected by civilization-ending event)/(total number of people on earch) * (chance of civilization-ending event)
  • Airline Crash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zerosignal (222614) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:00PM (#11116156) Homepage Journal
    So there's a 1 in 4550 chance of me dying in an airline crash? That figure sounds suspiciously high.
    • Re:Airline Crash (Score:5, Insightful)

      by doowy (241688) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:20PM (#11116418) Homepage
      civilization-ending event: if one occurs, you will die. (and he claims one occuring in the next 100 years is 1 in 455)

      Your mistake is not realizing an average person takes many, many, many more than 1 flight in their lifetimes.

      According to the National Safety Council [nsc.org], your odds of dying are actually slightly worse. Your odds of dying due to injury in a plane crash are about 1 in 4,023 (see this table [nsc.org]).

      If you rarely fly, then your at a favorible statistical end of the spectrum with respect to fatalities due to injury by air travel - but remember, some people bank several flights each and every week for years.
  • by mopslik (688435) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:00PM (#11116159)

    The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455

    Dare I ask how that number was dervied? It seems awfully arbitrary, and full of doom-and-gloom.

  • And fifty years ago it was predicted we would all have flying cars and domestic servant robots by now too... As Yogi Berra put it: "Its tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
  • by roalt (534265) <<moc.tlaor> <ta> <gro.todhsals>> on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:01PM (#11116176) Homepage Journal
    The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455

    Why always look at the negative side of things? It would reduce the problem of slashdotting websites...

  • by jarich (733129) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:02PM (#11116184) Homepage Journal
    So he wants a beowulf cluster of planets?

    Kewl!

  • You're 10 times more likely to get wiped out by a civilization-ending event in the next 100 years than you are getting killed in a commercial airline crash.

    I betcha you didn't know that if you lined up 100 years of civilization-ending events side by side, they'd span 2,000,000 football fields from the Earth to the Moon!

  • and... (Score:5, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:03PM (#11116187)
    "On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
    - Jack, Fight Club

    Sometime you hear people talk like they're going to live forever. Well I got news for you.

    NOT!
  • 100 years ago you were 100 times more likely to get wiped out by a civilization-ending event getting killed in a commercial airline crash, but it dosen't mean it happened.
  • by helix400 (558178)
    1 in 455 chance of humanity being wiped out in the next 100 years?

    So every 45500 years, a mass extinction event takes place on Earth? That sure doesn't sound right.
  • Hyperspace (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Schezar (249629) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:04PM (#11116204) Homepage Journal
    For anyone interested in this sort of thing, I recommend Hyperspace [campusi.com] by Michio Kaku [mkaku.org]

    One of the discussions in the book touches on objective "levels" of civilization and species.

    IIRC, it can be broken down something like this:

    Level 0: What humans are now.
    Level 1: Mastery of the entire energy capacity of a single planet
    Level 2: Mastery of the entire energy capacity of a single solar system
    Level 3: etc...

    He supposed that Level 2 and beyond was the point at which a civilization was effectively permanent, able to survive anything less than the total heat death of the universe.

    Neat stuff.
  • Far more people have died in air crashes in the last 10 years than have died in worldwide extinction events in the last 1000?

  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:04PM (#11116210) Homepage
    The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455

    ...oh, come now. Sure, he says "wiped out", but we all know that's just a teaser.

    What he really meant to say is this:

    The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact would be 1 in 455--were it not for the heroic actions of one man, his wise-cracking, non-WASP sidekick, and a plucky band of researcher/rock star/mercenaries...

  • I agree (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bryan Bytehead (9631) <meNO@SPAMbryanlprice.com> on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:05PM (#11116223) Homepage
    I've always said, "The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are getting the hell off this rock!"
    • Re:I agree (Score:2, Insightful)

      by syrinx (106469) *
      It would be nice if the meek inherited the Earth; seeing as the stupid have it at the moment.
    • Re:I agree (Score:3, Funny)

      by srussell (39342)
      The meek shall inherit the Earth. But then, we'll just take it back from them. What are they going to do about it? They're the meek.

      --- SER

  • One Planet ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:06PM (#11116231) Journal
    From the article: It's not the point that we should move (to another planet). It's the point that the technologies that we need to live and work in other places in the solar system will help us survive on Earth when these bad things happen.

    Hello - the title of this /. article is misleading...
  • You know if you just colonize a planet and don't have comingling in a reproductive sense with other colonies, the population of that planet will begin to diverge, evolutionarily speaking, and will eventually end up as a species different from the "home planet" And where does he come up with his, 1 chance in 455 over the next 100 years, statistic anyway?
  • currently, because we do not have the resources currently to shift a sizeable portion of our population to another planet, or even to orbit. Having 100 people on Mars as a backup plan incase Earth gets hit by an asteroid accomplishes nothing, as the offworld population size isnt big enough to sustain itself in the environment available, you need a sizeable number in an environment that can sustain them. To talk about this publically is really just incitement to public panic, or plain fantasy, ie 'Heres a
  • Since we're pulling numbers out of our asses, I'm gonna say that I have a 1 in 5 chance of getting laid this weekend. Woohoo! That'll certainly make my Friday go that much faster...
  • The Founders stay on one planet. Except for the few agents they send out. But they never became extinct. So this theory is false. :)
  • If "[t]he statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455", then the statistical risk of humans having been wiped out in the last 100,000 years is 88.9%.

    So it's almost certain that none of us are here. You're not reading this. Cockroachs are the dominant species on earth.
  • by sahonen (680948) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:11PM (#11116297) Homepage Journal
    "Dinosaurs are extinct because they didn't have a space program."

    Says everything, really.
    • by Croaker (10633) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:31PM (#11116576)
      "Dinosaurs are extinct because they didn't have a space program."

      Oh yeah? How do we know that the impact off of the Yucatan that wiped out the dinosaurs wasn't due to the crash of some attempt to launch a crew of brontosaurs into orbit? Do you know how much energy a rocket full of brontos would pack? The Truth That They Don't Want You To Know (this week) is that the dinosaurs went extinct because they had a space program!

      Look for my amazing new book on this subject "Really Friggin' Ancient Astronauts: T Minus for T-Rex" at a bookstore near you, soon.

  • Statistics? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by abertoll (460221) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:12PM (#11116317) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't this have been the same chance of being wiped out "in the next 100 years" for the past (how long have humans been on the planet?) Call me skeptical, but either that statistic is wrong or it's pulled out of...

    Nevermind, the point is if the chances are 1 in 455, that means that roughly every 455 years a civilization-ending event must be occuring. I don't see that, do you?
  • by pla (258480) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:14PM (#11116336) Journal
    While I agree with the overall idea (we need to get stable off-planet colonies ASAP), we need more than just the moon or Mars.

    Most of the possible "civilization-ending" events will actually leave quite a few humans alive, certainly enough to reestablish civilization over a few centuries. The "really big" problems involve our primary, the Sun. If that stops behaving in a very calm, consistant manner, we all die, no recovery possible.

    At the very least, we need a colony beyond the asteroid belt. Sadly, no large rocky planets exist out there (though perhaps one of Jupiter's big-4 moons would suffice). Better yet, a truly extrasolar colony, but that would require information we don't quite have yet (such as a likely Earth-like planet around another star).

  • by warpSpeed (67927) <slashdot@fredcom.com> on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:15PM (#11116355) Homepage Journal
    Tell that to the cockroaches...
  • by realitybath1 (837263) on Friday December 17, 2004 @12:57PM (#11116907)
    whining how we would have been wiped out long ago in the past if his numbers are right:

    Statistics were only recently discovered, hence they didn't apply back then.

    Stupids.
  • Bad math (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KrackHouse (628313) on Friday December 17, 2004 @01:05PM (#11116993) Homepage
    If the risk is 1 in 455 every 100 years then roughly every half million years the human species would be wiped out. Checking my 6th grade biology book seems to raise some interesting questions. Maybe he's a creationist. Volcanoes and Asteriods? How about loose nukes and the wars cause by migration caused by global warming?
  • Cynicism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kid-noodle (669957) <jono&nanosheep,net> on Friday December 17, 2004 @01:10PM (#11117040) Homepage
    I find it slightly interesting that the majority /. response here appears to be cynicism, even ignoring the spurious statistic and the misleading headline.

    Surely it is simply good sense that species resident on multiple planets, and particularly in multiple solar systems throughout the galaxy, and indeed the universe, are more likely to survive?

    Don't put all your eggs in one basket and all that - multiple planets in one system means the species has a better chance of surving a planet level extinction event, multiple solar systems means the species survives past the end of one star, multiple galaxies...

    And of course, that's ignoring the other benefits potentially offered. I just find it a bit unexpected that /.ers, the cutting edge of geekery, people weaned on Asimov and Star Trek, have such a cynical response..
  • Why Airliners? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HeghmoH (13204) on Friday December 17, 2004 @01:36PM (#11117362) Homepage Journal
    Why does everybody use airliners as a point of comparison when talking about dangerous things? You're in more danger when riding your bicycle than you are as a passenger on a commercial airliner, but I never hear anybody comparing asteroids to bicycle-related deaths.
  • 1 in 455? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drew (2081) on Friday December 17, 2004 @03:27PM (#11118800) Homepage
    and what is he basing those odds off of?

    unless there has been some significant new discovery about the cosmos that i am unaware of, the odds for the occurance of some cataclysmic event severr enough to wipe out all human life should be about the same for the next 100 years as for the last hundred years, and the hundred before that.... if there is a 1 in 455 chance of it happening in the next 100 years, then that should mean that there is a 1 in 45,500 chance of such an event happening in any given year.

    given the fact that the human race has been around for ~2 million years so far, i think his odds are a little off. otherwise we should have been wiped out around 20 times already.

    and this ignores the fact that the odds are most likely going down over time, as the level of event that would be required to wipe out the human race gets rarer and rarer the more we advance. an event that could have wiped out all of human life 2000 years ago wouldn't be nearly enough to do the job now...

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

Working...