Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Armageddon Science (The Best Science)

Disasters, whether natural, from outer space, or just man made, are a subject that fascinates the minds and thoughts of many people who might wonder how this whole thing might come to end. This thing being life and civilization as we know it. History tells us that contemporary people are certainly not the first to conceptualize, debate, dream, and speculate on how, or even when, the world will come crashing down in a reign of destruction so it might as well be a universal human past time up there with hunting, eating, and having babies. The amount of effort that contemporary society has put towards creating different visions of apocalypse and Armageddon scenarios in popular media is pretty astonishing since we seem to have even created a specific genre for such films. 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, the aptly named Armageddon, The Core, The Happening, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek (2009), Titan A.E., I Am Legend, and so many others make up only a tiny sample of what Hollywood alone has envisioned as possible doomsday scenarios.

This is all to say that, there is a real chance that things are just going to suddenly come crashing down and the world as we know it will just suddenly cease to function or exist the way that it has up until that moment. A meteor doesn't burn up in the atmosphere and crashes onto the planet, global warming melts the ice caps, nuclear weapons start launching across the world, the oceans rise over the land, or aliens suddenly appear and decide it's not worth it to keep humanity around are all possibilities, however remote, that could happen in an instant.

The benefit of this book, though, isn't that it essentially condenses a topic better suited to a series of History Channel specials into a single volume, but that it attempts to provide real and meaningful answers to such questions that some people might not otherwise get or understand. For instance, the more that people understand what the Large Hadron Collider actually does, the less they will probably fear the remote doomsday scenarios that people dream up and maybe actually appreciate the science that is going on. Learning about the cost of nuclear weapons and the theory of mutually assured destruction are certainly worth examining in a social studies classroom, but the book seems to go into topics that really lack substance or relevance to students such as antimatter weapons and energy along with crazy theoretically possible doomsday weapons like carbon weapons and its hard to tell how much it concentrates on more "down to earth" subjects like the effects of climate change on the world. While these subjects surely add flair and maybe a status as a comprehensive resource, it doesn't seem to be something that students should read unless they really want a kick to their Armageddon imaginations.


  1. Jason, I really appreciate your insights throughout this course. You seem willing to think deeply about every topic we talk about, and to let your imagination drive your contributions. You write so well too!

  2. I agree with the first part. We can look at past societies view on the end of the world and what they thought would happen. We can even look at our theories in the 1940s when some scientists thought exploding the A-bomb would cause the atmosphere to burn off. Obviously that did not happen. Perhaps we can sue this book to observe our society and how it views the end of the world, comparing ti to past societies view on how the world will end.
    We can also view concepts and misconceptions of history. One example was the idea that you could sail off the world. Compare that to the LHC and how it works. We could have students see the similarities and differences. I also agree that the more we learn about the topic, the else we fear it. Knowing what the LHC does lowers the fears of the people. I used to fear nuclear power, until i did a lot of research on the issue, from both sides, and figured it wasn't bad after all.

    Also, all the scenarios are theoretically possible of happening, but here is the funny thing, chances are it will be something we did not think about that would likely wipe us out. I mean look in the middle ages, everyone considered with he mid east, themselves etc. until the Mongols came and delivered the pizza (Ok maybe not as awesome sounding as it does in my head) Everyone then feared the Mongols until the Black Death sucker punched Europe in the gut. Yes I know there are examples of the feared enemy actually ending civilizations but these are some examples of the surprise unknown ending regimes. So again, chances are , the thing that would wipe us out is below our radar: The Mole People and The Crusty Crabs. The End is Nigh!