It now looks as if 99942 Apophis, a 350-meter asteroid that once looked as if it might hit the Earth in 2036, no longer poses much of a threat. According to NASA’s most recent Earth Impact Risk Summary, Apophis has almost no chance of hitting the planet. Above, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about what an Apophis impact would have looked like, as well as how big an asteroid would have to be to cause a mass extinction.
We post too much about zombies. I know. Honestly though, how can I resist a blog entry from the Center for Disease Control about survival tactics for the zombie apocalypse? I’ve always assumed that the CDC would have a response plan during an outbreak of flesh-hungry undead, but my inner fanboy loves hearing about it in their own words.
In seriousness, the use of games and fantasy to help people prepare for a disaster is an underutilized approach. Spending an evening preparing the house for an earthquake or a fire can be dour work. It’s much more entertaining to pretend you’re laying in supplies for a hoard of shambling infected, if you’re afflicted with the same morbid fascinations I am.
Read the full CDC post here.
I was just reminded of the documentary Collapse by our friend @vonherwig on twitter – it’s the latest film by Chris Smith, a filmmaker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s previously known for The Yes Men and American Movie. Also, he resides/works in my old work building with a small, fluffy cat.
In this film, the protagonist, Michael Ruppert, gives his perspective on where society is headed. I’m adding it to our Netflix que to watch this weekend!
Because it’s our friend Oola‘s birthday, we were reminded of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, one of our favorite versions of the H.G. Wells classic.
I discovered this album in my dad’s vinyl collection sometime in the mid eighties, and it was probably my first experience of the War of the Worlds story. As a kid, I remember sitting cross-legged in front of the stereo, flipping through the paintings in the LP jacket, and listening to Richard Burton describe the fall of humankind. Dad’s vinyl is famously pristine, but I’m sure I left more than a few grubby kid prints on the jacket while sitting there, bolted to the floor.
The music is a mix of analog synthesizers, seventies rock, and studio polish that I’m told is called progressive rock. Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy and Justin Heyward from the Moody Blues both supply vocals for a couple of the tracks, but over all, it reminds me more of concept albums like The Alan Parsons Project’s Tales of Mystery & Imagination than anything by the various guest contributors. I have the suspicion that it might sound dated to people who are allergic to seventies rock excesses, but it’s too wrapped up in my childhood for me to say one way or the other. If you’d like, you can give it a listen on YouTube.
Say what you will about it, though, the martians make one of the most fantastically unsettling noises I’ve ever heard in an audio play. For that alone, it’s at least worth checking out.
“Ah, young love. The air seems clearer. The sun seems brighter. There’s a spring in the step. Too bad about the zombie apocalypse.”
I hate filler introductions for movie clips. In short: watch this now. It’s only 14 minutes long, and it’s Friday. You weren’t really working that hard anyway.
This was made by Blue-Tongue Films.
On July 9th, 1962, the US detonated a huge atomic bomb (1k bigger than Hiroshima) in space – just to see what would happen. NPR recently profiled the happening.
Via BB. Thanks!
“This is the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”
- Craig Venter
It’s official: we can now hack life. A group of people in a lab just wrote out a string of DNA on a computer and booted it up in a living cell like a pirated copy of Photoshop. When that synthetic cell replicates, it’s offspring will have the same DNA.
I can imagine that someone could reassure themselves by thinking that this is just a bacteria cell. This one cell is miniscule, and it likely cost a fortune to create it. Maybe this is more of a theoretical victory than a practical advance that will affect our everyday lives.
Nothing could be less true. I don’t have a scientific background, but it seems clear that there will be three converging technologies that could have some startling results in the future.
- We will be able to transplant increasingly sophisticated DNA into increasingly complicated lifeforms at the cell level. Right now, they’re working on single-cell bacteria. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched to think that they’ll eventually have the technical capability to do the same with multi-cell creatures at the embryo stage.
- We will have access to an increasing amount of sequenced DNA, providing a larger code base from which to understand what is possible.
- The ability to analyze, test, and model synthetic sequences will continue to increase at an exponential rate with advances in computing technology.
Essentially, we may one day be able to make lifeforms in greater variety and sophistication than even nature itself. It’s inevitable that we’ll one day apply this to ourselves. If this doesn’t make your head spin, you’re not fully grasping the concept.