The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Adaptation In The Extreme…Becoming Cyborgs To Survive The Future
Dear Diary. Today let’s use some very out of the box science fiction type thinking to explore what eventually might become of the human race over the next several centuries, straying away from most of my standard posts to break up monotony. Many of you may have ascertained that I have been a big fan of science fiction nearly all of my life if you have read my book World of Thermo…Thermometer Rising. Science fiction storytelling can be a useful tool to improve our lives. For example, some people who made and saw Star Trek during the 1960s imagined that indeed a small device could be invented to improve communication, which became the cell phone. Even the people writing and producing Star Trek at the time could not imagine how small computers could get, so the smart phone was never presented in that show during the 1960s. The smart phones of today would have run rings around Star Trek’s communicators during their fictitious 2200s.
The climate crisis, as far as I can tell, will be with us long after the year 2100 comes and goes in just a scant 79 years. Most forecasts point to the world getting up to about +3.0C above preindustrial conditions by that year, but there is still hope that a rapid switch to renewables will keep the planet below the recommended +2.0°C mark, only if we work very hard during the next couple of decades for wholescale change. And oh yes. there are no guarantees that warming will stop around the year 2100 if climate tipping points are breached during and after the 21st century.
There are other civilization ending threats that are out in the ether, also. Over the last year we have been dealing with another global pandemic, that of COVID19. What if a worse pathogen were to come along the next few decades and centuries? There is the outside threat of extreme volcanic activity, which may choke our atmosphere and change our climate faster than our current carbon pollution ways. We as human beings turn out to be very fragile creatures, all things considered. What if we as a species were able to transform such that these threats were no longer a very pressing concern?
Evolution has been on a very slow, arduous path ever since life evolved on this planet roughly 3.5 billion years ago with many ups and downs. Scientists have still not been able to produce that first spark of life in a test tube, and missing links abound, so there remains a lot of mystery behind life itself. There have been many mass extinctions during the subsequent billions of years putting evolution on different paths. The most famous, of course, was at the end of the Cretaceous Age when the dinosaurs became extinct due to a large asteroid or comet fragment hitting the Earth, leading to the dominance of mammals and eventually us.
The pace of evolution has increased rapidly in the past two million years as several hominid species got whittled down to one…homo sapiens, though. Civilization appeared on the scene about 5000 years ago. The Modern Age began roughly around the year 1500 with inventors, artists, and thinkers like Leonardo Da Vinci becoming famous. Still, as late as the year 1800 scientists at that time could not imagine or conceptualize such devices as the electric light bulb, let alone television or the computer.
It would be foolish of us to think that all major inventions have been thought of as of 2020 and that something new will not come along in the next two hundred years that could totally change our fragile lives. Perhaps we can stretch our imagination a bit today and think of what may greatly change. Perhaps an invention may come along which could easily send us to the stars. A device might be invented which could rapidly remove carbon and other pollutants from the atmosphere, although I would caution that we all must work to mitigate emissions as if this will never come to pass.
What about life itself? New species occur when mutations make random appearances. Evolution naturally selects mutants for propagation, which can survive better than their parents. What if our species has come to the point of developing enough knowledge for “unnatural” selection, which might read a bit like playing God, but bear with me after reading some “what if’s.”
Let’s say that soon we discover how to develop life in a test tube and combine that with cloning knowledge for more rapid cellular growth and regeneration. We all have heard about computers getting more complex such that artificial intelligence is now a hot issue. Several science fiction stories over the last seventy or so years have been written about cyborgs, or the ability for our consciousness to combine with that of machines to produce a new life form, for bad or good. Perhaps in the not so distant future these cyborgs will be the answer to the many existential threats facing us currently in the 2020s, if not the age old problem of aging and eternal life itself.
Think about it. A cyborg or computer, perhaps an android, that does attain consciousness would not have to depend upon food or water to keep running…provided that it can have a source of electrical energy, which already exists in today’s technology. Cyborgs would also not be susceptible to narrow temperature extreme’s we are dealing with as today’s humans. Space travel would become easier if these cyborgs can exist in a vacuum and don’t break down due to high radiation. They may not actually be as much of a strain on our environment if they don’t need to reproduce or age. If they eventually replace current humans, cyborgs or androids may solve the problem of overpopulation, which will be a big thorn in our sides for many decades to come.
Still, if the next “mutation” for us as as a species is becoming cybernetic, would or could we retain our humanity? What would happen to emotions such as love? Would we become an entirely new sentient species with old fashioned humans dying out, much like Neanderthals? These are questions that philosophers have been pondering for decades and will continue to do so as we get closer to a “new reality” via new tech.
Perhaps we won’t be able to save ourselves anyway because we won’t have time to produce new tech in time before disaster strikes, wiping our kind off the face of the Earth. Here is a reprint of some of my older science fiction/reality material for thought provoking purposes. Enjoy this for your weekend read:
If you watch a lot of science fiction sooner or later you will stumble upon a story in which not only the Earth is in peril for annihilation, but the entire universe, as well. Today I will frighten all reading using a thought experiment to speculate about the plausible true nature of the universe asking the question, is carbon based intelligent life doomed? The goal here is to spur people into action on the climate issue proving this sanctimonious writer wrong. What spurred me on to write today’s post was this Atlantic article by astrophysicist Adam Frank that I read this morning relating renowned NASA climate scientist’s Gavin Schmidt’s speculative exercise:
Quoting from the article:
It only took five minutes for Gavin Schmidt to out-speculate me.
Schmidt is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (a.k.a. GISS) a world-class climate-science facility. One day last year, I came to GISS with a far-out proposal. In my work as an astrophysicist, I’d begun researching global warming from an “astrobiological perspective.” That meant asking whether any industrial civilization that rises on any planet will, through their own activity, trigger their own version of a climate shift. I was visiting GISS that day hoping to gain some climate science insights and, perhaps, collaborators. That’s how I ended up in Gavin’s office.
Just as I was revving up my pitch, Gavin stopped me in my tracks.
“Wait a second,” he said. “How do you know we’re the only time there’s been a civilization on our own planet?”
I’m going to stop there at the beginning of the article, which I would invite all to read to its end. Both Schmidt and Frank note that the chances for another civilization developing in the Earth’s far past is highly unlikely. The proof is just not there in the fossil record. What caught my eye was that Adam Frank, an astrophysicist by trade, had come up with the same train of thought on exocivilizations that this little old meteorologist had last year:
No, this post was not on early hominids developing a long lost civilization on Earth but on why it is not in man’s nature to deal with the climate crisis focused and head on. At the end of the piece I wrote:
“And finally, if you are reading this, Stephen Hawking, or from the grave, Carl Sagan, I would posit a thought no one that I know of has written, but does have cosmic ramifications. Yes, I am going “way out there” perhaps where no climate scientist has gone before… pun intended. I am not a great sage, and this paragraph is just a thought experiment or food for thought. What if beings like us who are carbon based and reside on planets in the goldilocks zone of what we would consider to be habitable can’t sustain their species, let alone civilization, because of carbon pollution? What if beings like ourselves after billions of years of evolution finally develop civilizations, but soon thereafter discover fossil fuels to get most of their energy needs? Like us they are greedy, and have some human, conservative facets. After discovering fire the next logical step would be the burning of coal, so these beings would use fossil fuels before they ever thought to develop solar or wind power. A couple of centuries after their industrial revolutions conservative facets of their society may prevent the total switch to green energy before it is too late.
So, all over the universe civilizations developed by carbon based beings may be like candles, which light for a time then go out due to ruining their environment. Hopefully a few, including ours, would have made the switch in time. Maybe this is one reason why we haven’t been able to discover other civilizations amongst the stars… an exceptionally scary thought…thousands of Earth-like civilizations trapped like fruit flies in a jar.”
What a horrible couple of paragraphs which imply that most carbon based beings if ever developing civilizations would be doomed from the start. Perhaps that is the way of the universe since on our own planet after life first evolved about 3 billion years ago all species develop and eventually go extinct. Civilizations could be plentiful, but like most seeds never sprout to grow outside of their own finite planets. Aha! I wrote most…not all. I’m going to cast some aspersions on our own dealt hand in the solar system, but not rule out hope for others.
First we know that Earth is the only habitable planet in our solar system for us given present technology. We could, and it was hoped by the late Stephen Hawking, that after a considerable expensive undertaking Mars would be colonized to save the human species in the long run. I agree, but most resources should go into shoring up this planet’s environment via Marshall Plan type endeavors, but I digress. What if there are solar systems out there that are blessed with two or more habitable planets in a much larger Goldilocks Zone than that of good old Sol? What if these planets were located fairly close together such that after environmentally ruining one via carbon and other pollution the other could be easily be hoped giving the civilization of said solar system a much longer chance for sustainability and development, sort of like giving seed extra fertilizer? What I’m getting at is the issue of “allotted time” for our civilization and perhaps others to get their environmental house in order. Yes gulp, some scientists state that we only have about ten short years to right our own ship.
On top of that let’s suppose that such multi-habitable planet solar systems are located at shorter distances from the core of their parent galaxies such that other stars are closer and thus easier to reach. Alpha Centauri is our closet star located about four light years from Earth. There are zones or clusters of stars within the Milky Way such that multiple stars lie less than a light year from each other but not so close that they collide. Unfortunately, Sol is isolated on the outer skirts of our galaxy and quite alone just like Easter Island in the Pacific.
Did you now that our own medium size sun is a yellow dwarf, which is a larger and more unstable star than the more common red award? The larger the star the shorter its lifespan. Now, don’t get me wrong. The estimated life span of Sol is about 10 billion years, and has about 5 billion more to go, which is an inconceivably long time, but red awards should be stable much longer before exhausting fuel. Nonetheless, strong solar flairs that could affect Earth are probably more common with Sol than from these smaller stars. The solar storm of 1859, also known as the Carrington Event, should it occur today, would shut down computers and the Internet for months, threatening modern civilization. Inhabitants of Earth, mostly scientists as of 2018, are coming to realize that our situation as far as the cosmos goes is fairly precarious.
We have discovered recently an exosolar system orbiting a red dwarf that might have at least one if not more habitable planets, Gliese 581. So far six planets have been confirmed to orbit Gliese 581 located about 20.5 light years from Earth. These planets are located much closer to their star than those in our solar system, but might be habitable since Gliese, being a red dwarf, is cooler than our sun:
Speaking of finding new planets see this:
In conclusion, I hope that our civilization is in its infancy and that existential issues like carbon pollution and nuclear proliferation don’t kill the proverbial baby in its crib. As we mature as a species there is always hope that we can learn our historical lessons well and discover solutions not even fathomable in 2018 making this essay moot. It’s my opinion that the threats to our civilization are great but can be overcome through good science, reasonable planning, and hard work.
Here are some “ET’s from Saturday and an “ET” dot map from Friday:
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton- “The Climate Guy”