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Earth Science Technology

How Technology Might Avert an Apocalypse 201

First time accepted submitter deapbluesea writes "Matt Ridley recounts the many predictions of catastrophe that have been made by prominent figures in the past. 'The classic apocalypse has four horsemen, and our modern version follows that pattern, with the four riders being chemicals (DDT, CFCs, acid rain), diseases (bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, mad cow disease), people (population, famine), and resources (oil, metals).' From over population, to pandemics, peak oil to climate change, Ridley provides examples of human innovation that have averted the disasters, real or imagined. He does not declare the doomsayers to be wrong, merely hyperbolic in their predictions. 'We hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate "lukewarmers."' Given the current discussions on rich vs poor, conservative vs liberal, religious versus non-religious, maybe a little moderation should be in order. After all, there are a lot of examples of 'experts' who got it completely wrong in the past."
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How Technology Might Avert an Apocalypse

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  • by arielCo ( 995647 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @02:07PM (#41047191)

    [PSA] Ken Starks of HeliOS fame has 2-3 weeks left

    This is one of those put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is situations. From his partner's blog at []

    Ken's cancer has just recently begun to spread to his right lymph node but his Oncologist has assured us that this is 80 percent curative if he gets the needed surgery in time.

    Unfortunately, his 1100 dollar a month SSI disability disqualifies him for Medicaid care and the local county low-income insurance he was receiving. This leaves us with about 2 weeks to either raise enough money for at least the OR for the surgery (we are hopeful of finding a surgeon to do the work pro bono) or raise enough money for the entire procedure. We've spent hours upon hours researching and contacting the links some of you have provided but they are so limited in scope that 90 percent of them are not helpful at all.

    We are looking at two weeks, maybe three before the cancer spreads past the point of surgery being an option. After that, we've been told just to make him as comfortable as possible until he passes. I'm not ready to accept that.

    Stupid, this Medicare exclusion. More about the guy, by Steven Vaughan-Nichols of ZDnet fame []:

    +Ken Starks is a Linux and open-source supporter. He also runs a non-profit that's donated thousands of PCs to low-income households. Now, he needs help to fight cancer. For more on what's happening with him see: [] []

    Pitch in if you can.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @02:29PM (#41047359)

    Seems poorly researched

    In 1956, M. King Hubbert, a Shell geophysicist, forecast that gas production in the US would peak at about 14 trillion cubic feet per year sometime around 1970.

    Oil production not gas

    All these predictions failed to come true. Oil and gas production have continued to rise during the past 50 years.

    Sorry, blatantly false. Try to find a US oil production graph showing this, LOL. Prediction dead accurate.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @02:30PM (#41047361)

    I was about to give up donating since you can't view a Plus link without a Plus account.

    Then I tried the thomasknight link, a donate button was there.

  • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @03:16PM (#41047675) Homepage Journal

    The median UN projection is for our population to top out just below 10 billion at around 2070, and then decline. []

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @03:17PM (#41047693) Homepage

    US oil production not only peaked in 1970, it's about half of what it was then. [] Texas (!) is a net oil importer. World oil production has been more or less flat since 2005, despite a price increase from $20/bbl to $100/bbl.

    World natural gas production is up, and US natural gas production is way up. Not clear how long that can continue. Gas wells can be pumped out faster than oil wells, and production drops off rapidly towards the end. Oil wells slow down more gradually, ending up as "stripper wells", producing less than 10 bbl/day each. The US has about 400,000 of those; it adds up.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @03:42PM (#41047825) Homepage Journal

    Man is more populous than the rat ...

    Do you actually have reliable data on this? If so, a lot of people who study such things might be very interested in how the numbers can be verified.

    I recently ran across a typical example showing how little is known of rat populations, in the form of a list of "expert" estimates for New York City that ranged from 1/4 million to 100 million rats. This is a 400:1 range, and most actual experts on the topic will openly admit that the estimates aren't much more reliable than this. New York may be one of the best-studied cities.

    The conventional estimate is that most human urban areas have on the order of 10 rats per human. This estimate has only one significant digit, though, and probably less than one digit for a lot of the world's cities. (Do you really think we know how many rats there are in Calcutta or Lagos or Mexico city or Shanghai or ...? ;-)

    Of course, it's common for us humans to base our policies on numbers that were just made up by self-proclaimed experts, often for PR purposes.

  • Re:Classic Causes (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @10:03PM (#41050181) Homepage

    So 200 years ago, people conveniently ignored Iceland (the Althing was the parliament of Iceland for more than 300 years), the Isle of Man (the Tynwald is the parliament of the island since 979, more than 1000 years of democracy!), San Marino (republic since 366 - more than 1600 years ago!) and Switzerland (democracy since 1291), just to make a point.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.