Is the End of the World Near? From Crackpot Predictions to Scientific Scenarios by Ron Miller

I received a review copy from the publisher. Ron Miller’s new book is an examination of a subject that has fascinated humankind seemingly from the beginning of the world. Intended for a Young Adult audience, he starts by covering a variety of End of World (EOW) scenarios from mythology, religion
and popular culture.

2012 is covered from both the Mayan perspective and the Niburu contingent. Also covered are various pseudoscientific theories such as planetary alignment and gravity shifts. In each of these cases, Miller is very straightforward and non-judgmental. He presents the theories and then presents the science behind why they are highly improbable, if not impossible. From the more sober side of EOW scenarios, he presents more plausible, if not always more probable causes of the destruction of the Earth. These range from the astronomic: solar flares, asteroids and the like, to human activity. Pollution, global warming and nuclear war all make the list of possible culprits. Miller also makes a point of mentioning that it may not be the Earth itself that is destroyed, but the human species.

To close out the book, he looks at some scenarios that would actually destroy the planet, namely collision with some very large space object, whether matter (asteroid) or non-matter (black hole) or the eventual death of the sun. After reading the book, one can breathe much easier. After all, Miller notes that “most fact-based world-ending disasters are thousands, millions and even billions of years in the future.”

This is a fun book that presents the different circumstances that might lead to the end of the world alongside solid scientific explanations of the probability for each. Miller also includes a comprehensive glossary as well as an extensive list of further reading (both non-fiction and fiction) as well as websites and movies to peruse, including a lot of ecological information. Teens, the intended audience, will definitely enjoy the book, but it is smart enough to cross over onto some adult shelves as well.

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Water from Icebergs?

In a recent Time Magazine article, “Just Thaw and Serve”, 23 May 2011, researchers have shown the viability, via 3-D modelling, of tugging icebergs southward to alleviate European water shortages.

The work, conducted by French engineer, Georges Mougin, over the last 40 years, would indicate that one could tow a multi-ton iceberg, one of 15,000 that calve off of Greenland each year, as far as the Canary Islands, while losing an acceptable amount to melting, and make it fuel-efficient by using ocean currents as power.

This sounds like an ingenious way to solve the water shortage, but at what cost? I’m no scientist, but if we remove the bergs, doesn’t that result in warmer water around Greenland? Thus resulting in more loss of the ice shelf? Thus warming the seas more, resulting in even more calving, all leading to the disastrous rise in ocean levels that we’ve been warned about for decades?

The article addresses none of this, and until we have those answers, I’d say lets hold off the celebration…