This year, my summer visit to Idaho was swallowed, most days, in a thick, gauzy haze. It was as though the sky was overlaid with a bleakest of Instagram filters; the smoke was often so dense, it blocked the blue light spectrum entirely, washing everything in a pale, flat yellow, a creepy, apocalyptic tint that contrasted well with the redness in your eyes and the gray dryness of your throat. [more inside]
The academic study of existential risk is being taken seriously. The University of Cambridge has the CSER, with its incredibly distinguished list of members, some of whom you can see speak about the risks inherent in scientific progress, or you can read the summary of why we need to work together to stop doomsday by Prof. Martin Rees. Oxford has the Future of Humanity Institute, headed by Nick Bostrom (fascinating profile of him), which has produced this taxonomy of threats, and has argued that far too little emphasis is placed on the issue. In the US, work is done in thinktanks like the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, which is focused on trying to tame AI, and predict when it will arrive (pdf). Though climate change gets a nod, the main concerns appear to be largely AI (which they are really worried about), nuclear war (chance of happening: between 7% and .0001% a year),threats from technological innovation like biotech or nanotech (pdf).
So, the apocalypse happens, in whatever flavor you prefer, and eventually our descendants (or the cockroaches') are poised to inherit the earth. Lucky for them, we've left a nice cache of information for them (previously on the Blue) so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel or Pokemon or whatever. Question is, will they be able to do that--or, rather, how difficult would it be to do that--if we use up all the fossil fuels first? [more inside]
What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan? [via realfuture]
When CNN launched in 1980, then-owner Ted Turner bragged that the 24-hour cable channel wouldn't sign off until the world ended--and would play "Nearer My God to Thee" when it did. It turns out he wasn't kidding: This Is The Video CNN Will Play When The World Ends
Tor.com presents "As Good As New" a short story by Charlie Jane Anders about a girl, the apocalypse, and making sure those three wishes count.
It's a trifecta! fear, loathing, and paranoia, meet Money. For those below the 1%, but above the 90%, a new kind of status symbol - long-term rentals for surviving the Apocalypse (but what if the Rapture comes while you're underground?). A chiropractor and a health care executive team up to offer pricey reassurance about the long odds.
John Luther Adams is a classical composer living in Alaska. His piece Become Ocean won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music. It was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and premiered there in mid-2013. Carnegie Hall hosted that same orchestra for a performance that Alex Ross from The New Yorker called "the loveliest apocalypse in musical history". WXQR has a full recording of that performance available. And now the official recording is being released and NPR has a limited-time preview online for listening. [more inside]
Wilson recently calculated that the only way humanity could stave off a mass extinction crisis, as devastating as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, would be to set aside half the planet as permanently protected areas for the ten million other species. “Half Earth,” in other words, as I began calling it—half for us, half for them. [more inside]
Things That Don't Suck, Some Notes on The Stand
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
I recently reread The Stand for no particular reason other than I felt like it. I'm honestly not sure how many time[s] I've read it at this point, more than three, less than a half dozen (though I can clearly remember my first visit to that horrifyingly stripped bare world as I can remember the first reading of all the truly great King stories). It's not my favorite of King's work, but it is arguably his most richly and completely imagined. It truly is the American Lord of The Rings, with the concerns of England (Pastorialism vs. Industrialism, Germany's tendency to try and blow it up every thirty years or so) replaced by those of America (Religion, the omnipresent struggle between our liberal and libertarian ideals, our fear of and dependence on the military, racial and gender tension) and given harrowing size.
I'm happy to say that The Stand holds up well past the bounds of nostalgia and revisiting the world and these characters was as pleasurable as ever. But you can't step in the same river twice, even when you're revisiting a favorite book. Even if the river hasn't changed you have. This isn't meant as any kind of comprehensive essay on The Stand. Just a couple of things I noticed upon dipping my toes in the river this time.
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
"Heaven Is a Place on Planet X" by Desirina Boskovich. "Break! Break! Break!" by Charlie Jane Anders. "System Reset" by Tobias Buckell. These three short stories are from The End is Nigh anthology, the first volume of The Apocalypse Triptych, three anthologies of stories about life just before, during, and after the apocalypse. "Post-apocalyptic fiction is about worlds that have already burned. Apocalyptic fiction is about worlds that are burning. The End is Nigh is about the match." [more inside]
"I want to make fictional worlds, inhabited by large robots and machines, all over the Google campus" Google has recently shown a great deal of interest in robots, snapping up companies right and left. Mark Pauline, a noted expert in the field, offers his services to the search behemoth.
The Beatus Cycle refers the nearly 30 surviving illuminated manuscripts based on an 8th century commentary on the Book of the Apocalypse by Saint Beatus of Liebana. The commentary is primarily composed of excerpts from works by theologians such as Augustine, Ambrose and Irenaeus. While the original manuscript had illustrations interspersed with the text, beginning with Maius in the mid-10th century, the paintings were moved to more prominent full or double pages with borders. (Here’s an example of the Maius manuscript format.) As the manuscript was repeatedly copied throughout the Christian portions of the Iberian Peninsula, the original iconography combined with Maius’ layout was preserved mostly intact. In 2007 a new Beatus manuscript came to light – the 11th-century Genevan Beatus. [more inside]
or the inner Grotesque and Gorgeous, and outer fantastic world of The End of Times: The Apocalyptic Book revealed, as it was imagined "couple" years ago. To be seen with your morning coffee.
Worried about robots? You should be. Artificial intelligence superior to our own is, by some estimates, only thirty years away. What could possibly go wrong? The answer: everything.
Over the past few years, the zombie apocalypse has come to represent an alternative to neoliberalism – an ideology that admits no alternatives. The Political Economy of Zombies by John Powers [previously, previouslier] Bonus: What Terrifies Teens In Today's Young Adult Novels? The Economy
“Planned genocide has begun,” read the Facebook entry on one of the groups I browse daily. The link: a picture of five monoliths looming like an American Stonehenge over a lush and lonely hill in remote Elberton, Georgia. I was only an hour away at the time, and decided to visit them in person.
It's debatable whether the troubled World War Z signals the end of the ongoing zombie craze, but the film that started it all is much more clear: Danny Boyle's bleak, artful cult horror-drama 28 Days Later, which saw its US premiere ten years ago this weekend. From its iconic opening shots of an eerily abandoned London (set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's brooding post-rock epic "East Hastings") to the frenzied chaos of its climax, Boyle's film -- a dark yet humanist tale of a world eviscerated by a frighteningly contagious epidemic of murderous rage -- reinvented and reinvigorated the genre that Romero built (though many insist its rabid, sprinting berserkers don't really count). And while sequel 28 Weeks Later with its heavyhanded Iraq War allusions failed to live up to the original (despite boasting one of the most viscerally terrifying opening sequences in modern horror), and 28 Months looks increasingly unlikely, there remains a small universe of side content from the film, including music, short films, comics, and inspired-by games. [more inside]
Eerie computer-generated images reveal how UK landmarks could crumble and decay if humanity was wiped out. Gallery
Bootstrapping the Industrial Age So you survived the apocalypse. Here’s what would it take to rebuild the world.
Will Mars be rocked by a massive comet in 2014? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. A comet will definitely pass close to the Red Planet on October 19, 2014. [more inside]
The zombie apocalypse. Threads. Pandemic. Doomsday Preppers. Post-apocalyptic pop-culture fiction of doom. What's it about? A Stanford scholar explains.
What happens when a comet collides with a major asteroid in our Solar System's main belt sending a 5-mile wide splinter on a direct path to Earth? Factually, we might never know. Till then, there's Meteor! [more inside]
Nuclear War: A Guide To Armageddon This 1982 documentary looks at the effects of a 1 MT nuke detonating a mile above London's St Paul's Cathedral. Written and produced by "Threads" director Mick Jackson. Ludovic Kennedy narrates. Previously. Meta.
In the bicentennial celebration of the historic Battle of Borodino on September 7th, 1812, that saw the Russian Army, despite heavy losses, withstand the attack of Napoleon’s forces, Orion Art multimedia group held a massive festival at Spasskaya Tower in Red Square, Moscow… complete with guest appearance by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
To commemorate the Mayan Apocalypse, video game tycoon Richard Garriott de Cayeux threw a lavish soiree at his 65-acre spread along Lake Austin, complete with various scenes of imagined end-of-the-world scenarios. - Sonia Smith in Texas Monthly
December 21st came and went and somehow humanity's still here, but have you ever wondered how many apocalypses you've survived so far? The Goddamn Apocalypse can help.
This past August, producer Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) launched a new digital series: H+. The premise: in the near future, 33% of humanity has retired their smartphones, tablets and computers in favor of an implanted computer system, H+, which connects them directly to the internet 24/7. The story begins as a computer virus attacks the implants, killing billions. In intersecting storylines across four continents (told in part through flashbacks,) the series then unravels what happened, who caused it and why. [more inside]
Rock Cellar Magazine has come up with a list of eleven songs to listen to in case the world comes to an end on December 21 2010. [more inside]
Killing Them Softly - Trailer(Youtube) - is based on a 1978 novel by George V. Higgins (Boston's Balzac), set in Boston. The movie was filmed in New Orleans and set in 2008. [more inside]
It's Not the End of the World: What the Ancient Maya Tell Us About 2012. The Foundation for Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI, previously) has a series of in-depth & visually rich presentations on Mesoamerican creation myths, concepts of time, and calendrics related to the up-coming (non)apocalypse. [more inside]
Having dealt with the pressing problem of what to do with all the bodies following a nuclear attack and looked into whether the bureaucracy would survive, Restricted Data moves on to the big question: Can Beer Survive A Nuclear Apocalypse?.
The world has ended many times - a supercut of apocalyptic visions.
Dr. David Morrison is the senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute in the Ames Research Center in California. For the past eight years he's also run the Ask an Astrobiologist feature on the institute's website. "Started by a civic-minded intern, the column has become the go-to place for concerned citizens to write to NASA and ask if, as they'd heard on the internet, the world will truly end on December 21, 2012. Before he took the helm on Ask an Astrobiologist, Dr. Morrison hadn't heard anything about such theories. Now he can't escape them." Meet NASA's unofficial answerer of apocalypse emails -- at least until December 23rd. [more inside]
Project Zomboid, Zombox, Dead State: Indie games and the zombie apocalypse clearly go well together. But what of that classic end of the world, nuclear armageddon? Peter Sahui covers Armageddon Empires - a five year old game with somewhat awkward controls which he insists still holds its own.
The Giant Robot Invasion has begun! You were warned this was coming and given tips to survive. But one tip you didn't get - don't go near the bench!
The Technological Apocalypse is Coming (Straight to DVD) Over the last 15 years a brilliant and charismatic self-made man has been campaigning across the United States, describing a near-future event that will deliver human salvation, immortality, and unlimited creative potential. After this event, he claims, the trappings of earthly life will no longer plague us: we will no longer age or get sick; we will be able to create our own worlds to our exact preferences; and we will no longer be restricted to our current physical forms. This man’s vision has become the center of a growing movement that already has tens of thousands of adherents, dozens of shared texts, and its own non-profit school that aims to “assemble, educate, and inspire a cadre of leaders” to one day “address humanity’s grand challenges.”. Coming soon, the movie! [more inside]
NEO Scavenger is a hex-based, turn-based scavenging/survival/mystery RPG. Dig through abandoned buildings! Punch a looter to death! Get eaten by a Dogman! Contract cholera! Die of cholera! Flash-based browser game, under active development; the current demo lets you explore the landscape and play with the game's mechanics at length. [more inside]
How will the world end? Encased in ice? Crumbling apart due to over mining? Or maybe beset by amphibious monsters and loathsome animals of huge size creeping their way towards us? An article by Herbert C. Fyfe from 1900, illustrated by Warwick Goble. [more inside]