2014 March 30 Sunday
Yellowstone Earthquake

Only a 4.8. But underneath Yellowstone lies a caldera that some day is going to make a large chunk of the United States uninhabitable while causing crop failures world wide. Perhaps still tens of thousands of years in the future. One can hope. Still the upwelling and earthquake serve as a reminder of the size of the future threat.

Hekla in Iceland could erupt next. But Vanuatu has a small erupting volcano right now and a guy used a DJI Phantom quadcopter (costs less than $500) to mount a camera to film it:

A web site, Volcano Discovery, has a daily summary of where volcanoes are erupting worldwide. What we need: daily UAV flyovers for each one uploaded to Youtube.

I think we should be better prepared to handle really big statistical outliers.

By Randall Parker 2014 March 30 09:44 PM 
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2014 March 19 Wednesday
Coronal Mass Ejection Barely Missed Earth In 2012

It was on par with the 1859 Carrington Event and would have caused massive electric grid collapses.

I do not want to see a civilizational collapse due to lack of electricity. We ought to have big electric power transformers stockpiled underground along with any other vulnerable but essential pieces of our electric power infrastructure. We are incredibly dependent on electric power and our civilization would collapse very rapidly without it. Our population densities preclude a shift back to a lower tech lifestyle without a big die-off.

I've said this before.

If you happen to live in a really really rural area where people from cities won't be able to reach and you prepare adequately you could live thru the consequences of a grid fried for a year or two. Afterward you could get some really nice ocean front property for cheap.

I have to admit I am not prepared for the collapse of the grid. I live in an area too densely populated and do not have a remote rural home or an old diesel car and hidden diesel fuel suitable for reaching it.

By Randall Parker 2014 March 19 08:46 PM 
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2014 March 13 Thursday
Large Pacific Northwest American Earthquake Threat

A big subduction zone plate shift could ruin your whole day. 9.0 baby.

In the Pacific Northwest, Native American stories told of "how the prairie became ocean," and how canoes were flung into trees. Whitmore of the National Tsunami Warning Center said similar waves, up to 100 feet above sea level, could again inundate many areas of the U.S. West Coast.

West of Eureka California a 6.9 earthquake just hit 3 nights ago. It was at the southern end of the Cascadia subduction zone.

Sooner or later huge natural disasters happen. Hurricanes aren't a big deal because we can see them approaching and we've got cars and evacuation shelters. But catastrophic damage orders of magnitude larger are possible and inevitable. Are you ready?

By Randall Parker 2014 March 13 07:54 PM 
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2014 March 11 Tuesday
Japan Policy Change Back Toward Nuclear Power

Big increases in coal, natural gas, and even oil have substituted for the nuclear reactors shut down after the April 2011 earthquake.

At the Hamaoka nuclear reactor site the Chubu Electric Power Company is building a 1.6 kilometer long concrete and steel wall to prevent a future tsunami from hitting that site's reactors. The company is also building an elevated backup power plant that can generate power to circulate water to prevent a meltdown after a future earthquake. A combination of these 2 measures could have prevented the Fukushima reactor failures.

Here is a table of Japanese nuclear reactors and which have applications pending to restart.

Japan does not have either the big wind swept plains or big sunny deserts which the United States can use for wind and solar power. With a far more dense population Japan has less space per person to put up solar panels and wind towers. Nuclear power uses far less land area than renewables. Japan now imports 88% of its energy. So I am not surprised by the change of course by Japanese policy makers.

By Randall Parker 2014 March 11 09:03 PM 
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2014 March 10 Monday
Railroads Evaluating LNG Locomotives

The energy cost difference between diesel and natural gas is now so great that BNSF and General Electric are going to test liquified natural gas (LNG) for locomotives. CSX is going to test retrofit kits supplied by GE. Mixtures of diesel and natural gas are being used.

Canadian National Railway is also doing LNG locomotive evaluations. Do not expect a rapid shift to LNG. The railroads make locomotive changes only very slowly.

The use of natural gas as a transportation fuel is expected to increase by 50% from 2007 baseline to 2016.

Railroads have energy cost advantages over trucks due to higher efficiency. LNG as a fuel could widen rail's cost advantage. Can long haul trucks migrate to LNG as a fuel source?

By Randall Parker 2014 March 10 10:33 PM 
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2014 March 08 Saturday
Did Dark Matter Wipe Out Dinosaurs?

Every 35 million years Earth passes thru a thin layer of dark matter that reaches across the Milky Way Galaxy. Traversal thru that layer could bombard Earth with some comets from the Oort Cloud.

Jan Oort's could of comets is around the outside of our solar system in all directions. A small gravitational nudge could send some our way. Right some rogue comet might be headed toward Earth to cause another extinction event.

Three asteroids came close to Earth on March 5 and 6. One of them was spotted only a day before it passed by. We could treat these as warnings that we ought to build asteroid defenses. Seems like a much better way to spend money on space programs than, say, the hundred billion dollar international space station or plans to go to Mars.

By Randall Parker 2014 March 08 11:53 AM 
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2014 March 03 Monday
CRISPR And Human Germ Line Genetic Editing

An article in the Gray Lady about CRISPR technology for genetic editing includes the observation that this technique makes it easier to modify DNA that is passed along to progeny.

“It does make it easier to genetically engineer the human germ line,” said Craig C. Mello, a Nobel laureate at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, referring to making genetic changes that could be passed to future generations.

Germ line genetic engineering will be done in other species first. Imagine genetic alteration of assorted livestock. Put genes in cows or pigs so they'll resist their biggest diseases without antibiotics in the milk and meat. Or how about making sheep produce alpaca wool? For that matter, make cows produce alpaca wool so that in cold Wisconsin dairy farmers could stand to have a second stream of income from cutting off the wool in the spring. The wool would also reduce calories burned (or energy costs for space heating) to keep the cows warm in the winter.

Germline genetic engineering would enable repair of many inbred dog breeds which carry harmful genetic mutations. No more deaf dalmations. Be gone with hip dysplasia too.

CRISPR can also be used for microRNA silencing.

By Randall Parker 2014 March 03 09:33 PM 
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