Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 26 October 2013

The end of the world?

Honestly! I leave the blog unattended for a few days and, while I'm away, we have solar flares, an earthquake off the coast of Japan and a newly-discovered asteroid flying by inside the moon's orbit, not to mention the storm brewing in mid-Atlantic.

So, where to begin? Solar flares seem to have taken a back seat recently, which is odd, given the impact that major solar activity could have on today's technology-reliant society.
When aimed directly at Earth, X-class sun eruptions can interfere with satellite-based communications and navigation systems and also endanger astronauts in orbit.
Although the sat-nav on the Tavern's coach-and-four can cock things up quite successfully without extra-terrestrial intervention - after which she pauses briefly, then huffs 'recalculating' in hurt tones, as if it were all our fault - this is potential disaster territory when applied to major infrastructure.

The Japanese earthquake, although measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, passed off largely without incident, as did the aftershocks, though I imagine the inhabitants of the Fukushima area had an uneasy few hours. In fact, Friday saw a surprising number of earthquakes, judging by the USGS map (a useful reference for which I am originally indebted to Demetrius, always a fount of knowledge on the subject).

Meanwhile, as if this were not enough, on the same day 2013 UX2 zipped past a mere 150,000km away, having been spotted only the night before, yet another reminder of the known unknowns out there. Admittedly, an impact wouldn't have sent us the way of the dinosaurs - estimates place it between 3.8 and 8.4m in diameter - but it would have been enough to make an impressive bang, nonetheless.

All in all, yesterday was quite a day for those of an apocaholic disposition, and, as if that were not enough, we in the UK  are now being told to batten down the hatches in preparation for the meteorological bomb headed in our direction.

Back in the 80s, global thermonuclear warfare was the name of the game; 'Protect and Survive', they said, which was scant consolation if you lived near a prime strategic target. Still, whitewashing the windows and levering the door off its hinges would probably have distracted the populace from the unedifying spectacle of local bigwigs scuttling for their council-supplied shelters.

These days, thanks to improved detection techniques, we can take our pick of  potential catastrophes ready to wipe us out in a variety of interesting and spectacular ways - I wonder if the local council still have their bunker ready. We are surely overdue for something major - look what happened to the dinosaurs and they hadn't even invented scripted reality or 'Extreme Celebrity Spa'.

The gods may once have played at dice, but I'm inclined to think they have moved on to a cosmic game of Mousetrap or Buckaroo; deep down, we all know that, sooner or later, something's got to give and the world as we know it will all come crashing down - an idea that has been profitably exploited by writers, Hollywood and, for that matter, several major religions.

Still, in the meantime, we invite you to raise a belated glass to 2013 UX2 to speed it on its way.

Carpe diem!


  1. I have just cued up a whole week's worth of blogposts, so even if 'Storm St Jude' scours Essex off the map, I'll 'live' in cyberspace. For a while..

  2. Julia, I once heard a geographer describe how erosion, wind and flooding may one day turn Southend into an island. If it starts looking likely, you'd better plan your escape route fast; you can't count on Snake Plissken being there when you need him.

    The same thing, apparently, could also happen further up the coast, creating an island populated mainly by the rival communities of Clacton and Frinton-on-Sea - surely the stuff of which dystopian novels are made.

    Update: high tide due between 6 and 7am and wind speeds in excess of 63mph - good luck!

  3. I think the Basildon chavs could take Snake Plissken... ;)

  4. I won't disagree with you, Julia, though they might be more likely to hail him as one of their own; judging by my last visit to the Empire, he'd fit right in.

  5. All in all, yesterday was quite a day for those of an apocaholic disposition,

    As we all are?


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