Apocalyptic Predictions

If the end of the world came, would you be ready to face an apocalypse?

We’ve all wondered at one point in our lives: what would I do if the world were coming to an end? Popular books like Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Stand by Stephen King and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins each present the reader with an end-of-the-world scenario and some surprising plot twists. Let’s take a look at the plausibility of surviving an apocalypse by taking a look at past predictions and then examining some real-life options that exist. Whether or not you believe in any of the numerous end-of-the-world conspiracies, knowing what is available in terms of shelter, food and water storage, and other basic necessities is an interesting thought experiment if nothing else!

Early Records of Apocalyptic Predictions

Predicting an apocalypse has been a sign of power and influence for centuries. Many leading religious and philosophical figures have used these “special insights” to control masses of people and convince them to behave in ways that furthered the religion, cult, or ideology of the leader. One of the earliest known apocalyptic predictions was in 1284. It is said that Pope Innocent II had a reputation of pushing teachings of the end of the world in order to instigate political and social change. In 1213 he claimed that the antichrist would come in 1284, ending the world as it was known if the people didn’t rise up and reclaim Jerusalem. The year came and went without incident.

Not all dire predictions came from a religious source, however. Astrologer and mathematician Johannes Stoffler was deeply convinced that, based on his academic calculations, a flood would come on February 25th, 1524 due to a unique alignment of planets under the astrology sign of Pisces. He made this prediction in 1499. The people of Germany were struck with fear and scurried to build or buy boats, the most elaborate of which was a three-story ark. The day of the flood came during a time of drought. No flood magically appeared, and the day passed without danger.

The next great apocalyptic proclamation garnered a following of over 10,000 believers. In 1831 evangelist William Miller told his flock of believers that he had received a sign from God that the end of the world would take place in 1843 when Jesus would return. His followers scrambled to clean up their lives, dedicate themselves to the church, and spread the message far and wide to help others prepare. When the year passed without the return of the saint, Miller quickly recalculated the special “message” he had received and proclaimed the year was in fact 1844. When the following year passed without incident the whole prediction was labeled “The Great Disappointment”, and his following dwindled.

The Halley’s Comet prediction also failed when in 1910 many believed the comet would emit dangerous gases into the atmosphere of the earth. This conspiracy had a polarizing effect with believers buying gas masks, and skeptics hosting viewing parties on rooftops and other high places to watch the comet pass by without disaster.

Fans of the written word will appreciate this next failed apocalyptic prediction. Two astrophysicists from Cambridge wrote a book called The Jupiter Effect in 1974 that claimed massive earthquakes would destroy Los Angeles in March, 1982. Their science and data to support this hypothesis was compelling enough to stimulate mass panic. When the prediction proved false, their follow-up book, The Jupiter Effect Reconsidered was small consolation to the people who moved from the area to avoid death and doom.

We won’t dwell too much on the next two predictions as they occurred within the last twenty or so years. The Y2K prediction of technology being our downfall as a global society came and went without a bleep on our computers. The 2012 Mayan calendar misinterpretation stated the world would end with the close of the ancient calendar. The response to this was muted in comparison to other predictions from the past, and of course nothing catastrophic happened.

The final prediction worth noting is yet to come. In 1704 Sir Isaac Newton used a combination of biblical prophecy and occultic influences to predict the world was destined to end in 2060. He stated the biblical Christ would return at that time and reign on earth.

Preparing for an Apocalypse Today

Now that we understand the prevalence of end-of-the-world theories, let’s see how easy it would be to prepare for doom, on the off chance that Sir Isaac Newton or any future self-proclaimed prophets are correct. Not surprisingly, many companies globally offer bomb-resistant, self-sustaining bunkers the average citizen can purchase to install either underground or overground on their own property. With so many ways that disaster can erupt, a good shelter will have the ability to withstand heat from fires, flooding, and powerful weaponry from warfare.

Structural integrity is a primary consideration when assembling the bunker. Both under and overground shelters will ideally have a few layers to provide the most comprehensive protection. Layers of steel, concrete and soil help shield the inhabitants from the more commonly known potential disasters. The shelter should, as much as possible, be bomb-proof and ideally be capable of withstanding a temporary or long-term water submersion. While most shelters will be small, there must be enough space to both store freeze-dried and canned foods as well as allow the inhabitants enough space to live comfortably for several weeks.

Choosing the best location is vital when constructing your shelter. Ideally, you will avoid valleys, land next to or near oceans or large lakes, and separate yourself from thick forests or other flammable objects. On the flip side, you don’t want your bunker to be an easy target from the air in the event of a war of nations. A top layer of natural-looking rocks or earth can help disguise your overground bunker or the entrance to your underground bunker. Steering clear of all known military bases and other high-value targets that a potential enemy might bomb is also a consideration.

Organization within your bunker will help you feel safe in the event of a disaster. Installing shelving with sealed plastic bins that are clearly labeled will give you more space and also allow you to more quickly develop a routine while you are waiting out the disaster. Freeze-dried foods will likely be the best option when stocking up on foods. Rehydrating the foods is usually easy and not labor-intensive.

Now, for the fun part: sanitation. Removing human waste from the bunker is going to be a daily necessity, and one you won’t want to waste water or energy on. Some of the more upscale bunker makers offer an underground toilet system that runs off of your generator or other power supplies you may have. For the less-costly bunker owners, the old “dig a hole in the ground and cover it up” method works in the short term. Stand-alone macerator toilets also provide a longer-term option when there is a power source. Another popular option is the composting toilet. Peat moss in this type of machine helps to break down waste. Whatever methods your research reveals as the best option for you, a way to dispose of human waste is as necessary to have in your bunker as food, water, and proper air ventilation.

A Tenuous Future

While for many the future may look bright and chipper, there is a massive subset of people around the world who are quietly going about building protective, safe shelters that can be passed down in their families on the off chance that a global or regional disaster should occur. The general rule of thought is, just because it hasn’t happened yet, does not mean it won’t. And since bunkers take years to plan, build, and stock with supplies, the sooner one starts, the better. That is if you believe in the possibility of an apocalyptic event occurring within your lifetime.

The Planets of Our Solar System

The Top Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

We live in a vast and wonderful solar system with planets and moons that orbit our star, the sun. But, how much do you know about each of our planets? Many of us may have learned the order of planets from Mercury to Pluto (now a dwarf planet), but each one has a unique composition and is full of facts that differ strongly from the earth. Let’s take a look at each one. At the end, let us know how much you already knew!

Mercury

This planet is small with a diameter of 3,032 miles. It is gradually shrinking at a nearly imperceptible rate of 9 miles per 4 billion years. As the planet appears to be gradually cooling, its volume is reducing. Mercury does not have a strong atmosphere and it is susceptible to violent impacts from passing meteors, causing its surface to be riddled with craters. Temperatures on the planet can range from a staggering 800 degrees Fahrenheit down to -269 degrees Fahrenheit. Its lack of a strong atmosphere does not allow it to capture heat from the sun, so its nightly temperature drops drastically. Mercury does not have any moons because of its size and low gravitational pull.

Venus

Venus rotates on its axis slower than any of the other planets in the solar system. It takes 243 earth days to rotate one time. It is also full of carbon dioxide within its atmosphere, making it an expert at trapping heat, making it hotter than its neighbor Mercury. Temperatures on Venus are 863.6 degrees Fahrenheit! It spins in the opposite direction of the other planets. Each planet except for Venus spins counterclockwise on its axis. Venus also orbits the sun in the opposite direction of the planets. This is likely due to a collision that occurred an unknown number of millennia ago that essentially flipped the planet upside down. Venus is abnormally bright, being the second brightest planet or moon in the sky, after earth’s moon. This is due to the reflective nature of its sulphuric acid clouds. Because it is easier to see in the sky compared to the other planets, it makes sense that it is the first planet to be tracked across the sky. Many say this began in the second millennium BCE.

Earth

We live on its surface all of our lives and may think we know quite a bit about our planet. But, did you know scientists believe at one point in history that the earth may have looked purple instead of blue? This is because it is theorized that microbes relied on retinal instead of chlorophyll for survival. Retinal reflects back violet and red light. There is an estimated 60 tons of cosmic dust that falls into the earth from meteorites, comets, and other celestial bodies. This contributes to the sodium and iron in our atmosphere. There is a theory that Earth once had two moons that collided and left us with the current moon we see in the sky. Other planets aren’t the only places where temperatures can be extreme. On the East Antarctic Plateau, it can drop to -133.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Earth is not perfectly round. It is a bit more narrow at the poles and bulged at the equator. The largest living organism on earth is a fungus. You can find the honey fungus spanning almost two and a half miles in the state of Oregon.

Mars

A year on Mars is 687 Earth days because its orbit is further from the sun. It has two moons that are likely asteroids that were captured by Mars’ gravitational pull. They are named Deimos and Phobos. Mars’ axis tilts similarly to Earth’s axis tilt, giving it seasons. Its atmosphere is not dense and cannot trap heat from the sun. It averages -212 degrees Fahrenheit during its cold season and a pleasant 68 degrees Fahrenheit during its warmest season. Mars has its own volcano, Olympus Mons, which is dormant but is the largest volcano and the highest peak of any other in the solar system. It is approximately three times taller than Mount Everest. Mars has another distinguishing feature on its surface. It has a crater that covers 40% of it. It also has the largest canyon of any of the planets in the solar system that is 4 miles deep and extends for thousands of miles.

Jupiter

This planet has more moons than any other in the solar system. It is the largest planet in the solar system and is also the one that spins the fastest. It takes approximately 10 hours for Jupiter to complete a full spin on its axis. The planet has a strong magnetic field (about 14x stronger than Earth’s) and a vast amount of radiation around it. Jupiter has rings that can be divided into three layers. Winds near Jupiter’s center are estimated to be 400 miles an hour. Jupiter is sometimes credited with shielding Earth from passing objects by pulling them into itself with its strong magnetic field. Its mass is 318 times greater than Earth.

Saturn

It is sometimes called “The Jewel of the Solar System” with its visible rings and large size, second only to Jupiter. The planet is made up of gases, mostly, and its rings are made up of rocks, ice, and dust. Wind speeds at Saturn’s equator can reach 1,118 miles per hour. A year on Saturn is about the same as 29 years on Earth but a day on Saturn is 10 hours and 14 minutes. At its widest, Saturn could fit Earth across itself 9 times. Saturn is the least dense planet in the solar system. It is said that when Galileo looked up to Saturn with an early version of the telescope in 1610, he thought its rings were two moons stuck to the sides of the planet.

Uranus

This is the third largest planet and is made of gas and ice. As such, it is the coldest planet in the solar system with temperatures reaching -360 degrees Fahrenheit. Uranus is spinning on its side, like a bowling ball rolling toward the pins. Because of its unusual orientation to the sun, a summer on Uranus lasts 42 Earth years, as does a winter season, putting a year on Uranus to be the equivalent of 84 Earth years. Uranus has 13 rings, all made of dark particles that are extremely small. Winds on the planet can reach 560 miles per hour. The human eye can see Uranus in the night sky on Earth because the planet just meets the brightness scale needed for the human eye to see it.

Neptune

It is made of water, methane, and ammonia around a core of rock. It has 5 primary rings and 4 arcs of rings that are clusters of dust and space debris. It has 14 moons. Because of Pluto’s strongly elliptical orbit, Neptune is occasionally the furthest planet from the Sun. Of the other gaseous planets in the solar system (Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter), Neptune is the smallest. It is said to have a similar gravitational pull as that on Earth at only 17% stronger, the closest gravitational pull to Earth of any other planet in the solar system. Its winds reach 1,304 miles per hours.

Pluto

This dwarf planet (as of 2006) has been beloved by generations as part of the planets of the solar system. Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was named at the suggestion of a girl who was 11 years old. Pluto has a diameter of 1,473 miles, making it smaller than Earth’s moon which has a diameter of 2,160 miles. Pluto is part of the Kuiper Belt that orbits the Sun just outside of Neptune’s orbit. Pluto has five moons. It is one-third water and two-thirds rock. It has mountain ranges and craters on its surface.

The Future of Space Exploration

As we dive deeper into space through advancements like the James Webb telescope, we will continue to uncover details of other planets that will enhance our understanding of our solar system’s place in the vast expanses of space.

Science Fiction: The Evolution of a Genre

Science fiction as a genre has evolved and expanded over the decades, inviting innovative ideas from forward-thinking minds. Avid fans of the genre and its subgenres (some say there are over 30 subgenres!) probably can’t recall a time before there was an entire section in bookstores or online shopping platforms dedicated to science fiction. The genre is not the oldest (poetry claims that distinction) and its evolution is a stunning example of what human ingenuity can accomplish through a combination of imagination and a foundation of science.

Earliest Records of Science Fiction

Unsurprisingly, fiction aficionados do not quite agree on when Sci-Fi as a genre began. Many posit that it was during the 2nd century when Lucian of Samosata penned A True Story, the book that astounded readers with its descriptions of aliens, travel beyond earth, and war among the planets. Several genres in addition to science fiction have attempted to lay claim to this work and its accolades as belonging within their genre. This book, and many others up through the 13th century, do seem to contain themes and elements of Sci-Fi but do they have enough to qualify them fully? The debate continues…

Let’s look at the opinion of astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan. His belief was Somnium by Johannes Kepler is the first true Sci-Fi book. He may be right. After all, within those ancient pages the author describes what it could be like to view Earth from a vantage point on the Moon long before Neil Armstrong set foot upon its regolith-covered surface. Other early contenders include a personal favorite, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as Jules Verne’s epic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. With a genre whose stories are so rich with possibility and so embracing of the unknown it stands to reason that each of these and many more have directly impacted, shaped, and built the incredible genre that we know and love today.

How Sci-Fi Has Changed

The 1900s saw a huge push toward defining the genre and introducing stellar, new concepts to readers of literature. When Hugo Gernsback published the first American Sci-Fi magazine in 1926 called Amazing Stories, he unwittingly started a further boom for the genre as he put incredible works of fiction and art in the hands of thousands of people each month. One author in particular, E. E. Doc Smith with Lee Hawkins, is credited for writing the first notable space opera, The Skylark of Space, which was put in the magazine. A comic strip celebrating Sci-Fi was also born from the magazine as Philip Francis Nowlan introduced the nation to Buck Rogers with Armageddon 2419. Just over a decade later in 1937 a new editor took over a competing science fiction magazine called Astounding Science Fiction and ushered in what fans call the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.” Editor John Campbell focused on content that centered on real, scientific progress and advancements in technology. As a result, the genre blossomed as readers were both in awe of the advancements of the day as well as excited by the fictional elements of each story.

In the 1940s a Hugo Award was given to author Isaac Asimov for his book series entitled Foundation. The story presented the idea of galactic empires, a novel concept in the day. Throughout the 1950s Americans stayed riveted to new ideas including interstellar communities, human evolution of the future, military science fiction, and much more. The 1960s and 1970s saw further advancements in technology, prompting authors to write about themes that stretched the limits of our understanding at that time. Things like human psychology, physical and mental abilities of the human body and mind, and questions about concepts such as gender, feminism, and social constructs played into stories heavily during this time.

Films’ Influence

The onset of film opened an entirely new way for humans to see and interpret the world around them. One of the earliest known recordings that could be labeled as science fiction is the iconic silent film A Trip to the Moon directed by Georges Méliès in 1902. It was shot with a meager budget of 10,000 francs and was only 9 minutes long. A recent film entitled Hugo tells the true-to-life tale of the director and offers a glimpse into his creative mind. By 1927 a full-length science fiction film called Metropolis failed at the box office but has succeeded in the eyes of modern filmmakers for its innovative science fiction concepts. Fast forward to 1968 when 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Planet of the Apes both came out and it’s easy to see how Sci-Fi enjoyed a burst of popularity as it garnered new fans while enchanting fans of old. The door was wide open for another quality, successful film when in 1977 George Lucas released what we know today as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. This, of course, sparked a global obsession with the series and expanded the reach of science fiction.

Science Fiction Today

From its humble beginnings, the genre has risen to include some of the bigger blockbuster hits in Hollywood and some of the more heavily read books in the nation. As writers and authors continue to push the limits and expand human awareness of what could exist beyond what we can see and experience today, readers are spoiled with a plethora of media options that range from classic to modern and encompass a variety of subgenres. Let us not forget, however, that once upon a time, not too long ago, a few brave writers put pen to paper and dreamed up worlds that no one had dared to capture in ink.