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m1omg
2012-Aug-02, 08:41 AM
Why do people always think that things like asteroid impacts, big volcanoes, slight changes in Earth's orbit... will all happen SOON, and in their lifetime? Also why do people always think any rock within spitting distance in space means THE END OF THE WORLD FOREVA? I am really tired of debunking 2012 and other "prophercy" nonsense and try hard to explain people that when CNN writes "asteroid gonna impact SOON" it really means "MAYBE in the next 10 million years". I also hate the abuse of the "end of the world" term, something that might cause a regional catastrophe is not the "end of the world", hell, even a global catastrophe would be far from the end of the world for the biosphere.

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 12:35 PM
I think when people say "End of the World" they usually mean something more like "The collapse of life as we know it".

And the reason people think this stuff is because they are fascinated by it. It's the same reason people like disaster and future dystopia movies or books. I think some people don't feel their lives are worthwhile unless they are informing others of a disaster heading our way.

Also, don't forget that some people have better critical thinking skills than others. Unfortunately, it's usually the people with the lesser skills who are the loudest. Loudest doesn't always mean majority. Sometimes it just means loudest.

closetgeek
2012-Aug-02, 12:36 PM
Why do people always think that things like asteroid impacts, big volcanoes, slight changes in Earth's orbit... will all happen SOON, and in their lifetime? Also why do people always think any rock within spitting distance in space means THE END OF THE WORLD FOREVA? I am really tired of debunking 2012 and other "prophercy" nonsense and try hard to explain people that when CNN writes "asteroid gonna impact SOON" it really means "MAYBE in the next 10 million years". I also hate the abuse of the "end of the world" term, something that might cause a regional catastrophe is not the "end of the world", hell, even a global catastrophe would be far from the end of the world for the biosphere.

All the apocalyptic shows on the Discovery channel package don't help but I think it's just that every generation believes that they are going to see the end. I have no science to back me up but I think it's probably some subconscious defense against the idea that they will someday die and the world is going to go on without them.

m1omg
2012-Aug-02, 12:45 PM
I think when people say "End of the World" they usually mean something more like "The collapse of life as we know it".

But what would the "collapse of life as we know it"? After the largest mass extinction in the history of multicellular life at the end of the Permian, life not only recovered but Earth was soon lush and filled with megafauna (dinosaurs). After that, when dinosaurs died out, it enabled the first sapient technological (there are several other species such as the other great apes, elephants, crows and parrots that are sapient, but with little intelligence and non-technological) species (humans) to rise up. During Earth's youth after microbes already evolved, Earth was hit 6x by a total evaporation event asteroid yet life survived in the form of hardy underground microbial slime - and we are all descendants of that hardy, undefeatable slime. So what is really the "end of the world"? I cannot think of any such event except for the death of the Sun.

I am very much fascinated by disasters but unlike fearmongerers I don't pander baloney "prophercies" to become rich, I try to understand disasters from a rational perespective instead of jumbo bumbo about evil humanity getting punished. I don't pretend that a 100 meter rock would end life on Earth like some popular "scientific" sensationalist shows. The first doomsday "prophesy" appeared in 2800 BC http://www.abhota.info/end1.htm and I think it is just silly that humanity keeps making the same mistake over and over and over again.

I am not an ellitist. Most normal people I know don't believe doomsday prophet nonsense. I just cannot put my head around those youtube conspiracy videos and "100 PERCENT TROO" depictions of "Planet X" (lense flare). It sometimes seems to me that certain people would believe that the world will end soon by a big asteroid composed of bovine excrement sent by our cow overlords that secretly control the rythm of our hearts by thalaron radiation if you just made a Youtube video with a catchy kitchy song and sinister quotations from Nostradamus.

Cougar
2012-Aug-02, 12:53 PM
Apocalyptic thinking...

There is a strong religious belief component to this. I'll leave it at that.

Noclevername
2012-Aug-02, 12:53 PM
But what would the "collapse of life as we know it"? After the largest mass extinction in the history of multicellular life at the end of the Permian, life not only recovered but Earth was soon lush and filled with megafauna (dinosaurs). After that, when dinosaurs died out, it enabled the first sapient technological (there are several other species such as the other great apes, elephants, crows and parrots that are sapient, but with little intelligence and non-technological) species (humans) to rise up. During Earth's youth after microbes already evolved, Earth was hit 6x by a total evaporation event asteroid yet life survived in the form of hardy underground microbial slime - and we are all descendants of that hardy, undefeatable slime. So what is really the "end of the world"? I cannot think of any such event except for the death of the Sun.

It really means "WE, the mighty and proud human race, might not be here any more, of what worth is a world without US, the pinnacle of creation?" A combination of pride and insecurity.

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 01:02 PM
But what would the "collapse of life as we know it"?

It just means a dramatic shift in the way we live. No effective law enforcement. No food, power, or fuel distribution. That sort of thing. It would be like every man (or woman) for themselves. A collapse of civilization. In most disaster scenarios, it's not the initial disaster that kills the most people. It's the collapse of society that follows.

Swift
2012-Aug-02, 01:14 PM
Why do people always think that things like asteroid impacts, big volcanoes, slight changes in Earth's orbit... will all happen SOON, and in their lifetime?
There is definitely a fascination that humans have with it.

I wonder if to some extent, it is the "bookend" to our fascination with how did "things" (the Universe, the Earth, life on Earth) begin.

One thing that many people have noted, is that part of many people's fantasy with such major disasters is that most everyone but them dies. Some how, either through luck, or some special set of skills or circumstances that only they have, they are one of the few who survive. I think part of that fantasy is that they are just part of the crowd now, but by everyone else going away, they are now one of the chosen few. And how convenient for that survivor that one of the other few survivors is their favorite male or female actor or supermodel.

KaiYeves
2012-Aug-02, 01:23 PM
There was an article on io9, I think last year, talking about how one explaination for the popularity of zombie movies was that people liked the idea of civilization being destroyed so that they could start over/do what they wanted (no boss to listen to, no taxes, take whatever you want from abandoned stores, etc.) I think the appeal of the apocalypse for some people may be similar.

Edit: Swift posted while I was writing this, and I see he made a similar point.

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 02:13 PM
There was an article on io9, I think last year, talking about how one explaination for the popularity of zombie movies was that people liked the idea of civilization being destroyed so that they could start over/do what they wanted (no boss to listen to, no taxes, take whatever you want from abandoned stores, etc.) I think the appeal of the apocalypse for some people may be similar.

Edit: Swift posted while I was writing this, and I see he made a similar point.

I agree with this, and I'll admit that when I think about these scenarios, I am usually one of the survivors. Unfortunately, the reality of what that life would be like is pretty far-removed from the fantasy. I know that I wouldn't want people trying to kill me to get at the canned goods in my pantry, and it's not my idea of a fun way to live.

Swift
2012-Aug-02, 02:21 PM
John Varley had an interesting take on these kinds of stories with his SF short story The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged) (http://www.varley.net/Pages/Manhattan.htm) (yes, you can read it for free on his website)

SeanF
2012-Aug-02, 03:52 PM
I agree with this, and I'll admit that when I think about these scenarios, I am usually one of the survivors. Unfortunately, the reality of what that life would be like is pretty far-removed from the fantasy. I know that I wouldn't want people trying to kill me to get at the canned goods in my pantry, and it's not my idea of a fun way to live.
I saw a funny graphic on the internet a while back. It was a picture (drawing actually) of a guy with a shotgun standing on top of a car surrounded by a horde of zombies.

There was text that said, "What you think you'd look like in a zombie apocalypse," with an arrow pointing to the guy on the car. Another block of text said, "What you'd actually look like in a zombie apocalypse," with an arrow pointing to one of the random zombies.

<LOL>

PetersCreek
2012-Aug-02, 05:50 PM
Why do people always think that things like asteroid impacts, big volcanoes, slight changes in Earth's orbit... will all happen SOON, and in their lifetime?

Perhaps because on a purely statistical basis, it is just as likely to happen SOONer as it is to happen later. And even if they understand the probalities, their lifetimes give things a lot of room to go wrong...and you know what Murphy said about things going wrong. ;)


Also why do people always think any rock within spitting distance in space means THE END OF THE WORLD FOREVA?

We have been blissfully ignorant of NEOs for the vast majority human history, so it might be a case of 'What you don't know won't hurt you'...or it's corollary 'It's new, big, and scary...we're all gonna die!'

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 06:18 PM
John Varley had an interesting take on these kinds of stories with his SF short story The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged) (http://www.varley.net/Pages/Manhattan.htm) (yes, you can read it for free on his website)

That's brutal.

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 06:18 PM
I saw a funny graphic on the internet a while back. It was a picture (drawing actually) of a guy with a shotgun standing on top of a car surrounded by a horde of zombies.

There was text that said, "What you think you'd look like in a zombie apocalypse," with an arrow pointing to the guy on the car. Another block of text said, "What you'd actually look like in a zombie apocalypse," with an arrow pointing to one of the random zombies.

<LOL>

To be honest, I'd probably rather be one of the zombies.

SeanF
2012-Aug-02, 06:20 PM
Perhaps because on a purely statistical basis, it is just as likely to happen SOONer as it is to happen later.
It is? Wouldn't that only be true if the dividing line between "sooner" and "later" were half-way between "now" and "never"?

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 06:25 PM
It is? Wouldn't that only be true if the dividing line between "sooner" and "later" were half-way between "now" and "never"?

I read that as saying that---for example---if something that happens on average every 100,000 years last happened about that long ago, there is no more likelihood of it happening two generations from now than it is likely for it to happen now. I'm not sure that makes sense, but at least I know what I'm trying to say.

SeanF
2012-Aug-02, 08:27 PM
I read that as saying that---for example---if something that happens on average every 100,000 years last happened about that long ago, there is no more likelihood of it happening two generations from now than it is likely for it to happen now. I'm not sure that makes sense, but at least I know what I'm trying to say.
I think you're comparing it happening during this generation with it happening during a particular generation later on. And yes, that's true, but that kind of fits in with what I'm saying because you're using similar time-frames.

It is no less likely to happen today than it is to happen tomorrow, because they are both 24 hours. But it is far less likely to happen today than it is to happen after today, because the second time frame is much larger.

That's why I said it would only be true if the division between "sooner" and "later" were at the half-way point, so they were both similarly-sized time frames.

primummobile
2012-Aug-02, 08:57 PM
I think you're comparing it happening during this generation with it happening during a particular generation later on. And yes, that's true, but that kind of fits in with what I'm saying because you're using similar time-frames.

It is no less likely to happen today than it is to happen tomorrow, because they are both 24 hours. But it is far less likely to happen today than it is to happen after today, because the second time frame is much larger.

That's why I said it would only be true if the division between "sooner" and "later" were at the half-way point, so they were both similarly-sized time frames.

Ok, I see what you are saying.

DoggerDan
2012-Aug-03, 12:47 AM
Why do people always think that things like asteroid impacts, big volcanoes, slight changes in Earth's orbit... will all happen SOON, and in their lifetime?

Perhaps it's a lack of math skills, not realizing that for a 100,000-year periodicity, one's lifetime is just 0.075% of the period. Put another way, if an event is supposed to happen "sometime" during that period of time, it stands 1 chance out of 1,333 of happening during the person's lifetime. On the other hand, if it's supposed to happen "about now" within +/- 1,000 years, the chances go up dramatically, to 1 chance in 26.7.

Still, that's pretty slim.


Also why do people always think any rock within spitting distance in space means THE END OF THE WORLD FOREVA?

I don't know. In the last 100 years, have we observed any objects crossing Earth's orbit large or fast enough to result in the extinction of all humans?


I am really tired of debunking 2012 and other "prophercy" nonsense and try hard to explain people that when CNN writes "asteroid gonna impact SOON" it really means "MAYBE in the next 10 million years". I also hate the abuse of the "end of the world" term, something that might cause a regional catastrophe is not the "end of the world", hell, even a global catastrophe would be far from the end of the world for the biosphere.

Another factor we must consider is the access everyone has to information. Be it good or bad, we all have access to tens, perhaps thousands of times more information than we did just fifty years ago. Those who're unable to differentiate between good and bad information as as likely to buy into conspiratorial stuff as they are to buy into the truth. Lack of education is only a part of it, but it's a significant part. Then there's the presence of certain religious prophecies which, before the 20th century, were considered either highly unlikely or unimaginable. Now, they're plausible, which has a definite impact on the strength of belief for those who belief in such things.

KaiYeves
2012-Aug-03, 02:09 AM
That's brutal.
I agree. *shivers*

danscope
2012-Aug-03, 03:33 AM
People want to "feel" important, and they too often rely on symbols to illustrate their importance or self importantance.
The suggestion of a concept that would change all that quickly disturbs them, but the subconcious seizes the point that "They"
will be the ones left, and (to them) that's important.
The sun will shine tomorrow, and you will still get your bill for water and sewage. And your partner needs a hug , and your cat is waiting. Don't let troubled people spoil your day.
Live long.... and prosper.
Dan

Ara Pacis
2012-Aug-03, 06:21 AM
I think y'all are forgetting something very important. We have solid evidence to show that world-ending catastrophes actually do and have occurred. We know about all the asteroids or volcanism that killed the dinosaurs, but even in human experience there has been many instances of recorded calamities.
There were multiple volcanoes and supervolcanos, superfloods, megatsunamis, large earthquakes, megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis, big rocks falling from the skies, pestilences like locusts, droughts and other climate changes, and plagues. (Not to mention the small-time, local catastrophes like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires/forest fires) There's a lot of stories from history and pre-history about those events that conditions the thinking of people. Then there's also also a possible genetic adaptation to flightiness that selects for people who skedaddle and got out of Dodge before the calamity happened. Although there may have been some gene pool contributions by the few who stayed and survived. These are our ancestors: a bunch of panicky animals who bolt at the first sign of danger and happened to not be around to get killed, and y'all wonder why lots of people behave like panicky animals who bolt at the first sign of danger?

And then we invented machine guns, explosives, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, radiological weapons, robotic weapons, genocidal master-race wannabes. And then we realized we had created other calamities by accident; such as toxic waste, invasive species, bad engineering of dams and buildings, acid rain and other pollution, electricity blackouts, hackable infrastructure, terrorists, madmen with guns and nothing better to do than shoot up theaters and auditoriums, and global warming and new disease vectors. And if that's not enough, we've discovered other calamities we didn't even knew exist until recently like GRBs and 1950DA, an asteroid that has a good chance to hit earth in ~800 years.

You can try to blame religion, but religious prophesy is like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow because all those calamities to happen and have happened repeatedly throughout history. All those prophesies really do is repeat what I just wrote: that stuff happens and people act like panicky animals. The only difference with our current culture is that we're well aware of the risks instead of living in ignorant bliss, and that we've spent a lot of money putting investments in harms way like hotels in front of hurricanes, and building an electrical system susceptible to solar EMP from a CME.

Trebuchet
2012-Aug-03, 02:40 PM
I suspect a lot of it's just people who can't imagine life going on without them!

danscope
2012-Aug-04, 02:10 AM
Well said , Sir Trebuchet .

DoggerDan
2012-Aug-04, 06:43 AM
I think y'all are forgetting something very important. We have solid evidence to show that world-ending catastrophes actually do and have occurred. We know about all the asteroids or volcanism that killed the dinosaurs, but even in human experience there has been many instances of recorded calamities.
There were multiple volcanoes and supervolcanos, superfloods, megatsunamis, large earthquakes, megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis, big rocks falling from the skies, pestilences like locusts, droughts and other climate changes, and plagues. (Not to mention the small-time, local catastrophes like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires/forest fires) There's a lot of stories from history and pre-history about those events that conditions the thinking of people. Then there's also also a possible genetic adaptation to flightiness that selects for people who skedaddle and got out of Dodge before the calamity happened. Although there may have been some gene pool contributions by the few who stayed and survived. These are our ancestors: a bunch of panicky animals who bolt at the first sign of danger and happened to not be around to get killed, and y'all wonder why lots of people behave like panicky animals who bolt at the first sign of danger?

I like your thinking. "A dramatic population bottleneck is theorized for the period around 70,000 BC as a result of the Toba supervolcano eruption. From this time until the development of agriculture around the 11th millennium BC, it is estimated that the world population stabilized at about one million people, whose subsistence entailed hunting and foraging a lifestyle that by its nature ensured a low population density. The total world population probably never exceeded 15 million inhabitants before the invention of agriculture."

We do indeed have all three variations in our population today - the panicky survivors, the hunker-down survivors, and those who would probably never survive a catastrophe. Furthermore, since the invention of agriculture, our population has skyrocketed to approximately 500 times greater than any previously sustainable population levels.

The question is, will we be able to maintain those levels through the next version of the Toba supervolcano, or will we drop back to 1/500th or less of our current population?


And then we invented machine guns, explosives, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, radiological weapons, robotic weapons, genocidal master-race wannabes. And then we realized we had created other calamities by accident; such as toxic waste, invasive species, bad engineering of dams and buildings, acid rain and other pollution, electricity blackouts, hackable infrastructure, terrorists, madmen with guns and nothing better to do than shoot up theaters and auditoriums, and global warming and new disease vectors.

And yet, despite all these doomsday horrors, our population levels remind 500 times higher than the were before...


And if that's not enough, we've discovered other calamities we didn't even knew exist until recently like GRBs and 1950DA, an asteroid that has a good chance to hit earth in ~800 years.

You can try to blame religion, but religious prophesy is like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow because all those calamities to happen and have happened repeatedly throughout history. All those prophesies really do is repeat what I just wrote: that stuff happens and people act like panicky animals. The only difference with our current culture is that we're well aware of the risks instead of living in ignorant bliss, and that we've spent a lot of money putting investments in harms way like hotels in front of hurricanes, and building an electrical system susceptible to solar EMP from a CME.

Yeah, but I have candles, and books! If the effects on an EMP are long-lived, I have months worth of food, warm clothes and blankets, access to water, and means of purifying the same.

danscope
2012-Aug-04, 04:54 PM
" Ah ..... Time at last ! " Burgess Meredith

Ara Pacis
2012-Aug-04, 07:26 PM
Yeah, but I have candles, and books! If the effects on an EMP are long-lived, I have months worth of food, warm clothes and blankets, access to water, and means of purifying the same.

Ah, then you'll live a few months longer than everyone else... unless they find out you have food.

Noclevername
2012-Aug-04, 07:27 PM
I saw a funny graphic on the internet a while back. It was a picture (drawing actually) of a guy with a shotgun standing on top of a car surrounded by a horde of zombies.

There was text that said, "What you think you'd look like in a zombie apocalypse," with an arrow pointing to the guy on the car. Another block of text said, "What you'd actually look like in a zombie apocalypse," with an arrow pointing to one of the random zombies.

<LOL>

"Everyone is the hero in their own story".