March 25th, 2014 by Michael Ricciardi
Greetings faithful readers…
Well, March is turning out to be a fine month for apocalyptica of seemingly every sort…So, as your faithful reporter of all things cataclysmic and eschatological (well, I try), I give you this friendly round-up of end-full news items for your reading pleasure, with brief commentary. To wit:
Maize Can’t Take the Blaze
We love our corn and corn products (chips, bread, cereal , syrup)…And so, a drastic decline in maize (the taxonomic name for corn) yields could trigger a collapse in this major sector of the consumer economy…But there’s plenty of corn in the world, right?
Well, for now…But the newest and slickest climate model indicates that certain key staple crops like wheat, soybeans, and especially maize, are very vulnerable to increases in temperature. The scientists developing the model sought to gauge “global scale, impacts of extreme heat stress on maize, spring wheat and soybean yields resulting from 72 climate change scenarios for the 21st century.” The simulation study (published last week in Environmental Research Letters) predicts a doubling of maize crop losses by the end of the century. Wheat and soy also take significant losses, but recover for awhile in the northern latitudes (up to 2080) due to transient CO2 fertilization (note: the model was run under the RCP 8.5 scenario) .
This spells trouble for global food security, research on which by the UN FAO estimates food production must increase by 70% just to feed the world’s population by 2050.
Read more here: Heat Waves May Threaten Food Supply (there’s also a link to The Guardian story).
Contagion From the Cave:
Ok, so maybe mass food shortages just don’t’ do it for you (maybe “too long-term”)…Ok, how about some potential doom of the contagious variety?
Seems a new and pneumonia-inducing virion has been found in a cave somewhere in southwestern China (where it should have stayed). Apparently, the new virus — called Mojiang paramyxovirus (MojV), named after the Hunnan province of its origin — resembles (genetically) a genus of viral pathogens known as henipaviruses (a combination of henta and nipah viruses), two of which are deadly to humans. But, intriguingly, it’s not being transmitted by the usual suspect: cave bats…but probably another troglodytic denizen.
Currently viewed as a “curiosity”, virologist Qi Jin, director of the State Key Laboratory for Molecular Virology and Genetic Engineering in Beijing, was cautious: “we have not established a direct relationship between human infection and MojV,” Jin is the lead researcher of the study, reported in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Read the full Science Mag article A New killer Virus in China?
Photo (right): Courtesy of Qi Jin (via Sciencemag.org) Chinese disease sleuths at work in the cave in Mojiang.
The Rise & Fall of Civilization…Apo-collapse Soon, Says NASA
Well, this certainly has gotten some decent Web coverage; nothing like doom-and-gloom from our usually grounded thinkers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Some skeptical folks have suggested the direness of the prediction reflects the recent decline it the Space Agency’s budget, due to “austerity” and sequestration type stuff. But that’s just as likely to be ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand reactionism, as it is to be true. NASA, after all, got us to the moon and back; they are, in fact, rocket scientists.
Using a new multi-disciplinary computer model called ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY), the GSFC scientist take a look at the historical data showing that, far from being fringe speculation, “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history” and that “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.” According to the HANDY model’s findings, this holds true even for complex modern civilizations (hint: that means us). The study was conducted by a team of natural and social scientists led by mathematician Safa Motesharri of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (supported by the NSF), and is to be published in the journal Ecological Economics.
To read more on the NASA-funded model predictions, check out this story in The Guardian: Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?
By the way, this is not the first time I’ve reported on a theory of ‘Collapse’, for further prognostications of global peril, check out my feature essay from 2011: The Science of Apocalypse: Climate ‘Flips’ and Global ‘Collapse’ – Two Dire Visions of the 21st Century.
Things to Do During the Apocalypse When You’re (faced with the) Un-Dead…#1 – Wear ‘Death Cologne’
Zombies, according to urban lore, are attracted to the smell of fresh flesh — the kind found on living humans — which presumably keeps their revenant forms animated. Thus it would seem logical that the opposite of a living flesh smell — a sepulchral one — would have a repellant effect on the walking dead.
Developed by chemist Rychelle Burkes, Ph. D, the noxious body sent is a combination of two well-named chemical compounds (types of polyamines): putrescine and cadaverine which are responsible for the repellant odor we give off when we die. According to Dr. Burkes, adding a dash of methanethiol (which smells like rotten eggs) give the cologne it’s final kick. It’s the only thing sure to ward off the undead. And where will these putrescent amines come from? E. Coli bacteria, of course, the bacterial bugs commonly found in our colons will be put to work as microbial chemical factories. Ahh, yes, tiny, living beings serving a higher purpose…The “cologne” even has a fancy French name: ‘Eau de Death’. No word yet as to when the scent will hit a drug store near you.
Read more: How to Survive The Zombie Apocalypse and/or watch this informative and comforting video:
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