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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.
Global Threats 2017-08-22T00:00:17-04:00

Ranking the Apocalyptic Threats

The chance of a large asteroid or comet hitting the earth is 100%. It’s happened many times before and will again. We know what it will do — erase humanity and most life on earth. The problem is we don’t know when it will happen. Could be tomorrow or 1000’s of years from now.

Artificial Intelligence is different. With computers doubling in power every two years, we know about when they’ll be smarter than us. We just don’t know what will happen. It could be ok, or … we might become pets. These are two of the top threats facing us.

Top Threats

To qualify, there must be evidence the threat is real (historic or hard science) and has the potential to take out humanity or civilization. While invasion by angry aliens isn’t impossible, calculating the odds … is.

We used Probabilistic Risk Analysis, the same science used by your insurance company to calculate your risk and therefore your premiums. It simply weighs the likelihood something bad will happen versus the consequences if it does. To determine the consequences and probability of each threat, we used sources such as peer reviewed science papers and periodicals. Estimating global disasters isn’t an exact science. It’s also dynamic and changes based on things like nuclear weapons proliferation, advances in astrophysics, computer science or genetics. We welcome comments, updates and corrections to our estimates.

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And The Award Goes To…

1. Large Asteroid/Comet Impact

In the number one spot? Seriously? The asteroid that blew up over Chelyabinsk was a wake up call. Using the recently declassified data from the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Monitoring System, scientists, for the first time, were able to directly calculate the impact rate. Previously, they estimated it by indirect methods such as counting craters on the moon. The results were shocking. We weren’t off by double or even triple. The real impact rate is 10 times higher than we thought. That takes a city obliterating impact from once in a thousand years, to occurring in our lifetime. A continent incinerating impact moves from every 100,000 years to possibly explaining what killed the Woolly Mammoth, Saber tooth cats and even the Clovis Indian culture 12,000 years ago.

The dinosaur killer was about six miles across, but even a half mile wide asteroid or comet carries more destructive power than all the worlds nuclear weapons combined. One the size of Halley’s comet would have the same energy as a global nuclear war, if it were repeated every day for fifty years, and would spell the end of humanity. The repetitive nature of impact’s along with their apocalyptic consequences, seals their position at the top of the list.

Reference: B612 FoundationCosmic Shooting Gallery VideoPredicting Space Impacts on Earth and Their Frequency; Extreme Albedo Comets and the Impact Hazard; Jupiter Impacts.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Another surprise. This one has the greatest uncertainty and many will argue that there isn’t enough information to rank it. We do know, however, that computer-processing power is doubling every two years. Extrapolating that growth, a computer will have more processing power than the human brain within the next 25 to 30 years, and may exceed the processing power of all of humanity by 2050. However, there’s a wildcard. There are now over two billion smartphones. Although each currently only has the IQ of a lobster, they are networked, like the neurons in a human brain. Combined, their IQ would already far surpass ours. Will consciousness arise spontaneously? If it does, will it be benign or malevolent? We don’t know. A “Terminator” future is unlikely, but what will happen when computers can outthink us?

Reference: NY Times: The Coming Superbrain; The Singularity Institute; Scientific American, Jun 2011: A Test for Consciousness.

3. Global Nuclear or Biological War

As more countries develop nuclear weapons capability, the chance of a country or terrorist group using a nuclear weapon increases. A Scientific American article (below) estimates that a single detonation or small-scale nuclear exchange is a 50/50 probability over the next fifteen years. A full-scale global nuclear war, however, is much less likely since the end of the Cold War, with only a one-in-thirty chance over the next ten years. Despite arms reductions, there are enough warheads left to kill a half billion people, followed by another billion deaths from radiation, disease and starvation. Although the climactic impact would be global, isolated countries, like Australia, might be less vulnerable, allowing for survival of civilization. Biological warfare is much harder to define but would probably have similar probability and consequences to a pandemic (below).

Referene: Scientific American, Sep 2010: Laying Odds on the Apocalypse; The Effects of Global Thermonuclear War.

…And the Runners Up

4. Pandemic

A Pandemic is probably the least surprising on the list. With the rise of deadly viruses such as HIV and Ebola, and antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, the likelihood of a global epidemic is very high (estimated at 50/50 over the next thirty years). Add the possibility of an accidental release of an engineered bug and the threat increases. Unlike in the movies, however, experts believe that a pandemic is unlikely to wipe out mankind or civilization, but the death toll could be horrific.

Related: Superbug Gene; Scientific American, Sep 2010: Laying Odds on the Apocalypse.

5. Solar Super Storms

Solar Super Storms are a real threat. The Electro-Magentic Pulse created by the storm can destroy any un-shielded electrical circuits instantly. If the solar storm of 1859 struck today, it could take out the world’s power grid for weeks or even months. Imagine what happens to our infrastructure with no power for a month. We can’t prevent solar storms but we can protect our infrastructure from them.

Related: Racing For The Solar Superstorm.

6. Super Volcanoes

Super Volcanoes are extremely dangerous but the probability is low over the next 100 years, and, currently, there’s nothing we can do about them.


7. Runaway Global Warming

Why didn’t Global Warming make the top of the list? If all the world’s ice sheets melt, it will be a twelve-meter sea level rise. Killer weather, such as increased hurricanes and droughts, along with rising sea level, would be catastrophic for coastal cities where a large percentage of the world’s population lives. However, for the next 100 years, the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program’s worst-case sea level rise prediction, published May 2011, is 1.6 meters by 2100. This would be a disaster but as dire as the consequences might be, we have decades to do something about it or plan for the results, unlike comets, global nuclear war or artificial intelligence.

8. Gamma Ray Burst

Finally, a Nearby Gamma Ray Burst is deadly but extremely unlikely and there’s nothing we can do. Sorry Zombie fans, maybe next year.

5 Surprising Tricks to Survive a Disaster

1. In a serious disaster, water pressure is often lost. We can live weeks without food but only days without water. Few realize that their hot water heater holds 40 to 60 gallons of clean water. Just get a container and open the spigot at the bottom of the tank.

2. Buy an extra computer UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). Keep it plugged into the wall and charging, but don’t plug your computer or anything else into it. Inside it is a very large battery. Go online and buy a small transformer that connects directly to the UPS’s battery and has a USB port on the other end (USBbuddy sold by PowerWerx for $20). When the power goes out, open up the UPS and pull the giant battery out. Connect the little transformer to it and use the USB port to charge your phone for over a week.

3. During a large-scale blackout, credit and debit cards become useless. Make sure to stash some cash around your home or car. If you tend to spend, use a larger denomination like a $100 bill and put it where it’s a little hard to get to (you’re probably less likely to use it outside of an emergency). Have enough for a week of food and gas to get you away.

4. You can use a plastic bottle and the sun to sterilize water in an emergency. Take a clear plastic beverage bottle (must have the following written on the bottom: 3 arrows, the number 1 and “PET”). If the water is cloudy, first filter it through a clean cotton shirt, then put it into the bottle, close the lid and shake it. Leave it outside in direct sunlight for six hours (sunlight though a window is not sufficient). The sun’s ultraviolet rays will kill any bacteria in the water.

5. Despite the bad rap received by saturated fats, they may be a good disaster food.

  • Fats have the highest caloric content per gram (9 calories versus 4 for carbs and proteins). In a survival situation calories are good … no one is dieting.

  • Unlike simple carbohydrates, fats will keep you from being hungry for 5 to 6 hours.

  • Fats are fully digested and produce little residue … meaning you won’t have to go to the bathroom as often, which may be important if you don’t have water to flush toilets.

  • Saturated fats (solid at room temperature) are more stable than unsaturated fats and less likely to become rancid when stored without refrigeration.

For example, canned meats, like the much maligned Spam, are actually good disaster foods – high caloric content per weight, long shelf life and relatively inexpensive, but buy the lower sodium version if possible so it doesn’t make you thirsty.