Doomsday 2012 innovations: Asteroid defenses, cyborgs, the LHC and genetic experiments
With 2012 looming before us, we should wonder, are doomsday scenarios complete hogwash or can science validate them?
Planet X and Asteroids
Planet X is an example of scientific misunderstanding meets ancient mythology. Planet X describes any potential new planet. Once confirmed as a planet, it then receives an actual name; however, somehow Planet X became synonymous with Nibiru, an ancient mythological mystery planet that is going to destroy earth someday. According to NASA, there is no sign that Nibiru exists. Much of the evidence samples offered as proof of Nibiru's existence on the internet are actually photographic artifacts or lens flares, and not an actual planet. We should be perfectly safe.
Asteroids; however, could be a problem. Earth has been hit before and it will be hit again. Mathematical models have calculated that in 2186, an 1800 foot asteroid, which could lead to mass extinctions, has a 1 in 1000 chance of hitting the earth, which really aren’t great odds for us. NASA is presently developing new innovative techniques to safely land on an asteroid, which may be useful in diverting this disaster, similar to the movie Armageddon; however, unlike the movies, scientists feel that to successfully alter the asteroid trajectory, the mission would need to be accomplished a century before the impact.
The Big Bang and Black Holes
When the physics community starts talking about how they’re going to try to reproduce the event that created the universe in Switzerland, people begin to wonder. What effect would an artificial, miniature big bang have on the world? Can a miniature black hole actually be formed? Can a single experiment ultimately cause the destruction of the universe as we know it? Most scientists view these risks as negligible. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) simply doesn’t have enough power to ever reach the energy necessary to be a major risk to the world and if a black hole was possible, it would dissipate immediately and be inconsequential. The general consensus among physicist is that the LHC is completely safe; however, I would be lying if I claimed we knew everything about the universe. We have hardly scratched the surface. Who knows what is possible, but then again, isn’t that part of the fun? Nothing would ever get done in life without taking some calculated risks. Because of the LHC, we are closer to finding the Higgs Boson particle, an essential key component in particle physics.
As a society, if we create a slave work-force of artificially intelligent computers, we might be asking for trouble, at least that is the general consensus of countless science fiction movies and books. Presently we are creating lifelike human robots and incredible artificial neural networks. The first stand-up comedian computer and the first computer that actually understands emotions are presently being developed. Research is also underway to developing self-healing electronics and one scientist is actually running a http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/cin/2007/012725.pdf&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm0wtupwAz-0VX1mKEF3pahw88EktA&oi=scholarr">robot with neuronal cells. These innovations are pushing the line between human and machine. If that line is crossed, and the differences between human and machine are no longer so cut and dry, societal rules will need to change. We cannot enslave our fellow man, nor can we mistreat our pets. A self-emoting and intelligent machine will need to be given the same rights.
A genetically engineered monster will not likely bring our destruction. We can be monsters all by ourselves. The movie Gattaca does not describe your average doomsday scenario, but it does show how genetic engineering could lead to social and cultural destruction. In the movie, society has genetically removed all “bad” traits from humans, ranging from disease to personality traits. Anyone not genetically engineered in the movie, was considered less than human and had become a lower caste of working-class slaves.
This theme is reminiscent of the abhorrent and evil quest of the Third Reich to create a perfect Aryan nation during WWII, and for this reason alone, this future should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, in nature there is no perfection. It is a constantly evolving system. If we reached a state of perfection, as a human race we would have no need to grow or evolve. We would become stagnant and eventually die off. While we are way off from the future observed in the movie, the recent introduction of personal genotyping is scary. These companies, with your DNA, will determine your ancestors and tell you what diseases and medication you are most susceptible to. This could be a disaster because many of these disease and medication connections are actually based on limited scientific studies. They are not necessarily accurate. Not only can this make people worry unnecessarily, if insurance companies ever get their hands on this information, they would potentially have another reason to deny health coverage to people in need.
We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
Doomsday scenarios are fun. They have a hint of mystery to them, a bit of conspiracy, and they pique our basic emotions - fear of the unknown and fear of death. The more fantastical they are, the more exciting they become; however, a key in most Armageddon stories, modern or otherwise, not counting a random asteroid strike, is that our ultimate destruction comes from the choices we make. Whether it’s poor foresight (not thinking of possible consequences of scientific actions, using up all of our natural resources) or complacency, (not fighting injustices), our own downfall will likely be our own fault.