Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice… I hold with those who favor environmental disaster.

October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

The scenario is not an uncommon one.  It is X years into the future, and the world is about to end.  But how?  Many authors would descibe a “zombie apocolypse,” some with a more scientific approach to a virus or a disease that wipes out the human race; others describe nuclear fallout, a more plausible way we could cause Armageddon since we seem to have the technology to do it; but ultimately some of the most plausible scenarios for the end of the world involve much less violence, at least at first.

The idea of an environmental disaster bringing about apocolypse is found widely in much literature, most noteably in that of science fiction.  The notion is one that fits the genre; the science behind this kind of apocolypse is interesting and easily understood by readers, plausible enough to seem to never invoke the “tooth-fairy” response more than once.  The variety availiable in environmental disasters is also a draw to writers, as who doesn’t want to be able to choose from a wealth of interesting and equally plausible scenarios for their plot?  The plot could focus on crop failure due to the genetic homogeneity  of the plants leading to suceptibility to a single devastating disease; it could highlight a disastrous disruption in the biosphere ecology and subsequently the world economy due to global climate change; the story could be one on the effect of water shortage due to overuse and pollution of the hydrosphere; it could be like that of Gregory Benford’s Timescape and focus on toxic algal blooms due to eutrification caused by agricultural runoff leading to economic disaster and death; or it could focus on one of the many more examples of disaster, all leading to world panic, likely war over resources, and ultimately bringing about a death toll higher than what we have ever seen.

Such plots draw our attention as readers because we know they could easily become real.  Such plots are less fiction to us as they are an omen of the future, and that both terrifies and intrigues us.  Every event named is one that could easily occur in the modern era.  We grow our plants in genetic monocultures, meaning they are basically clones of one another, all grown together in neat rows, ideal for a virus to target the plants and easily be transferred to entire fields overnight.  If one plant has no reistance, none of the plants will have any resistance.  We are dependent upon these monocultures to allow us to make food crops in the amount currently necessary to sustain the population.  If a staple crop such as corn collapsed, it would lead to starvation and the scarcity of resources would ultimately lead to war and death.  Chaos and apocolypse because of one virus.  Global climate change is an issue known and accepted by most, and its effects can be catastrophic.  The overall warming of the Earth’s atmosphere can lead to melting of global ice caps which in turn leads to raised sea levels, submerging coastal cities where much of the world’s population lives.  Further, the global climate change will disrupt the biosphere ecology.  These two issues combined would lead to scarcity of resources, economic disaster, war, and death.  Water shortage is an issue many in the world are already dealing with.  Besides the shortage in California, the Middle East has always dealt with water shortage issues and wars have occured many times for water rights.  We seem to use water like it is an infinite resource, though water is considered a nonrenewable resource in many states of the U.S. Water pollution and overuse around the world has caused many problems already and, especially when combined with any other of the issues mentioned, could contribute to world catastrophe.  Eutrification is an issue in itsself without the neurotoxic blooms being added in.  A normal algal bloom of algae with no neurotoxic effect will still lead to economic disruption due to the death of fish caused by hypoxic conditions created by the spike in algae and their decomposition.  When neurotoxic organisms are added into the mix, blooms become terrifying.  The infamous neurotoxic “red tides” caused by dinoflagellate blooms have occurred throughout history, but with the mass amount of runoff from fertilizers and other chemicals currently occurring the issue of their increasing frequency and severity is a real concern.  The subsequent effect on the world economy and the death tolls that would be associated with a great increase in blooms would be devastating.

The reason why works with these kinds of disasters always hit home is because they are so real, so plausible.  We as a species cause more stress on our environment than any other species combined.  We have created these issues for ourselves, but even when we see these issues in the books we read or movies we watch and recognize them as so plausible and realistic, we hardly change our actions.  We deal with the here and now and do not plan for the future, just as the society in Benford’s novel.  It seems every day we are digging ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole and its harder and harder to get out.  It is not going to be zombies that bring about the end of the world; we are going to kill ourselves.

-Cassie Woolley


Red tide off the coast of La Jolla San Diego, California

Red tide off the coast of La Jolla San Diego, California;”La-Jolla-Red-Tide.780″. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –

5 Opening Lines

October 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

1. It had been three centuries to the day since the last man died, taking with him the last Y chromosome the world will ever know and leaving behind nothing but a sea full of estrogen.

2. The shuttle took off with loud bang, propelling Xander on his mission to yet another Galaxy on the outskirts of the Universe, and he could not help feeling the same loneliness that had plagued him ever since he started this desperate search for Catalina.

3. Chartzx had fallen in love with many women before, but none quite as humanoid as her.

4. The past has always caused the future, the future can sometimes cause the past, and the present is always being caused by both, but nothing could cause Caleb to understand this week’s quantum theory homework, no matter what he tried.

5. “The ratio of clones to humans is simply too high for us to sustain this kind of rapid population growth!”  I exclaimed, much louder than I had intended to.

-PJ Jedlovec (pjjed)

Cause and Effect

September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I personally find the possibility of time travel, at least to the past, to be very unrealistic. As an aside, I do believe ‘time travel’, if it should be called that, is possible due to the principles of relativity. Just get in a spaceship (timeship?) traveling at the speed of light, and time will stop from your frame of reference while it passes normally for everyone not travelling at the speed of light. While this sort of travel is typically used in the scenario of allowing humans travel vast interstellar distances within a lifetime, I think that it would be very interesting if a spaceship just took off at the speed of light, and just returned to the Earth after a period of time; this would theoretically allow humans to travel to the future on Earth. Some other possible theories to travel to the future would be to cryogenically freeze humans and ‘thaw’ them out in the future, whenever people figure out how they do that (this is what happen in Futurama, if any of you are fans of that show). The greatest caveat in time travelling to the future would be that you couldn’t return to the past; you’d be stuck in the future, displaced in time, a living anachronism. I personally wouldn’t do this because I’d have to leave everything I’ve ever known – my family, my friends, literally my entire world and travel to the truly unknown. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that. Not that we’re anywhere close to achieving any of this. But I digress.

Returning to the original issue if time travel to the past was somehow possible, I would definitely travel there, just because the implications-for physics, philosophy, and our basic understanding of the universe would just be so much more interesting. The reason why many experts believe that time travel to the past is impossible is because it violates the principle of causality, a fundamental principle governing our perception of the world. Basically, the principle says that for a given event, there is a cause and effect relationship, and cause precedes effect. This principle may seem fairly simple (and it is), but it is essential. I’m sure you have heard of the grandfather paradox; this is an example of the violation of cause and effect and can be expanded to involve any action committed once someone has travelled back in time that negates the possibility of travelling back in time in the first place. However, some theories have been formulated to resolve this paradox. One popular one is that it is impossible for the time traveler to perform any action which would cause him to be unable to travel to the past; the universe would simply forbid it. Another is that changing the course of history could result in the creation of parallel universes, one in which history has been altered, and one in which it has not. A more disquieting one is that the creation of any paradox would destroy the universe, although that possibility is remote. I personally believe that the universe would not respond to a paradox by destroying itself, but rather act preemptively to prevent the paradox from occurring in the first place. However, we have no idea of what would happen if time travel was possible. Therefore, if I had the chance, I would travel to the past, because I want to find out.


No Thanks

September 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m not sold on the idea of time travel—and not from an exclusively practical standpoint either. While thinking about time travel can be entertaining, the truth is that if I found/were presented with a time travel device I’d probably destroy it. At the least I’d walk away. No, I’d probably destroy it.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from both fairy tales and science fiction, it’s to never trust anybody or anything that promises remarkable power. Bad stuff happens. People die. You promise to trade your firstborn to a dwarf so that he’ll spin enough golden thread to keep your head attached to your shoulders. Skynet becomes self-aware. Someone invents a virus that promises to cure cancer and, one thing leading to another, Will Smith is suddenly running around Manhattan with a sniper rifle on his back, talking to department store dummies.

Bad stuff.

Any time travel scenario in which the traveler leaves his destination unchanged seems utterly unrealistic. That’s because when we talk about time travel we imply more than just moving from one space-time coordinate to another. We imply altering causal chains—we mean power. And while that aspect of time travel is most often stressed when traveling into the past, it’s equally true for the future. Never mind that you didn’t want to use that power—if you only wanted to look around, sealed inside a contraption meant to keep the environment safe from you. Your mere existence in a place can change it. You pressed the start button, didn’t you? You took the fruit from the tree; there’s no putting it back. But if you take out the power, then you take out the appeal. And I’ve never seen an apple without a peel hanging from any tree.

Like I said—bad stuff. And I haven’t even started talking about all those Star Trek “alternate universe” characters with goatees.


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