UKH

the end of the world as we know it

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 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021

I was wondering today how swiftly civilisation could dive into anarchy with just a handful of disasters. The pandemic in my view is “getting off light” had the virus been more fatal (say black death levels of fatality) we would have been in a far trickier situation. I had always assumed prior to COVID that the world would somehow be on the ball to containing such outbreaks, but having seen how varied the responses have been from different countries and even within countries I am not so sure. Yes we went into lockdown, but only after it had already spread everywhere.

Anyway this isn’t really about COVID but a general response to crisis.

My top contenders are…

A second Carrington event - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrington_Event a large solar mass ejection, which in 1859 caused widespread damage to telegraph systems. Back in 1859 this was almost an interesting novelty. How our current more electrical/internet/cellphone society would cope is debatable. Imagine not only communication going down but money wiped from banks, digital records, satellites, etc. It is possible to shield some systems from this but how many do?

Yellowstone park super volcano eruption – choking clouds, blocking out the sun.

The fresh water crisis – As the climate warms it may be likely that future wars are fought over water and other such resources

Another deadly pandemic – as outlined above.

Food shortages/refugees – less land for farming. I know some people think that as the earth warms we can just move to where it is more temperate but that doesn’t take into account the logistics of moving whole populations (if say Africa became uninhabitable how many of us would be willing to take them in?) nor the difference in terrain (so some regions may never be suitable for crop growing no matter how warm it gets.)

Rising sea levels – see refugees.

Mass extinctions – Aside from the loss of cute animals for David Attenborough to visit this would also include pollinators such as bees.

Lack of resources – by which I am thinking of all the stuff we mine to make the stuff we like.

Now the human race is very adaptable and eventually could find ways around most of the above but the more complex and interlinked a society is the more vulnerable it is to a cataclysmic event (not the humans the society). Reliance on lots of different things all working together makes something prone to disaster if one of those things goes wrong. My experience of empty shops during lockdown made me realise how dependent we are on swift delivery of goods. I am not saying that society is about to collapse but it struck me that when it does it could happen very quickly and strike out of the blue.

So my question is can we as a society dependent on phones, internet, wi-fi etc. mitigate against potential disaster and are we likely to even bother?

4
 bouldery bits 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

This was a cheerful read. 

 plyometrics 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Might be worth adding the BBC’s seemingly apocalyptic plans to cancel Holby City in 2022 to your list.

1
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I'd actually in some ways go the other way - I was quite impressed that the whole COVID thing didn't descend into mass anarchy and people by and large did comply.

Post edited at 13:05
1
 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to bouldery bits:

clue was in the title

 Siward 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

We can't mitigate against the sort of events you contemplate- they are simply too rare to be worth the huge adaptations required.

Humans are numerous, too numerous, and easy times lead to population growth. A few billion getting wiped out is neither here nor there in the sweep of time but would still leave plenty of us to carry on even if our state of technology is knocked back 100 years. 

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

That was quite heartning and we did get our act together far quicker over the vaccine than I thought we would. We still got off light though. I call it a shot across the bows to make us aware of what could go wrong

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Siward:

I think that was more my thinking. Humanity would carry on most likely but not in the way they do now. As Aron Ralston once said "Geological time includes now." Rare events still happen. If nothing else the sun will swallow us one day.

I also think there is not much point in worrying about too much. Shit happens and you die that's just the way of it. Helping my dad stumble his way into the barbers this morning made me think, well that's where I'm heading I'm just glad my legs work now

Post edited at 13:19
 Lankyman 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I really fear the return of Godzilla. With global warming it's not just Tokyo that's going to get tw@tted next time.

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

I hope its the classic godzilla not the 1998 American version

 Siward 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Will Godzuki be there?

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Siward:

and mothra (socially distanced of course)

 Ciro 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I'd actually in some ways go the other way - I was quite impressed that the whole COVID thing didn't descend into mass anarchy and people by and large did comply.

People by and large complied with the regulations in place, and indeed pushed ahead of them (certainly in the UK there were many people self isolating and demanding a lockdown well before one appeared). However it was the systems of governance that didn't react correctly in a timely manner.

I wouldn't advocate the world following China's brutal system of elimination of the virus strategy, but once that had been done the rest of the world had the opportunity to stop the virus in it's tracks.

Several countries from island states (New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, etc.) to one mainland European nation (Montenegro) and one densely populated country sharing a border with china  (Vietnam) did eliminate or virtually eliminate the virus and get back to normal life.

The rest of us myopically put short term continuity for the economy ahead of the public health, which of course caused far more economic damage when we did have to lock down.

Of course, those countries who did the right thing have a tough time now keeping the virus from re-entering and suppressing it when it does, but had the rest of us done the right thing we could have been back to relative normality in the space of a few months instead of a few years.

I see no reason to believe the world leaders have learned their lesson. Socialism is a dirty word to much of the developed world, and catastrophe by its nature requires a socialist response.

5
 ThunderCat 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I personally hope it will be more zombie oriented.  I've watched enough zombie films / series and spent enough time tutting at the screen saying "why the hell are you doing that" to be able to stay well ahead of the game, ie:

Get proficient using a machete or some other hand held weapon.  Don't be emptying hundreds of bullets at a target when you know that bullets aren't being manufactured anymore, and that zombies are attracted by noise.

Find refuge somewhere where you can close off the entrances to the outside world.  Preferably several floors up so you can have a decent view.  Pitching tents in a forest is a pretty stupid move.

If you're being followed / chased by one and can't kill it, at least close doors behind you.  Don't leave them swinging open and then act surprised that the zombie has followed you into the room.

 hokkyokusei 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

...

> My top contenders are…

...

You forgot the possibility of an asteroid strike.

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Allthough I don't want to ditract from the inevitable doom laden descent into the fiery abyss I feel duty bound to say (as it's part of my job) your final point definitely wont happen as the earth is absolutely chocked full of metals and minerals. Even peak oil is now seen as a myth (theres f*cktonnes when you start looking).

On a less cheerful note what we will run out of (and arguably have run out of in some settings) is environmental capacity to extract and use those resources without doing irreparable damage to ourselves and the environment.

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to hokkyokusei:

Doh! They are always the ones you forget

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to ebdon:

good point! And there is a big chunk of stuff floating above us chock full too (getting it back to earth might be expensive though)

That is the problem you can have all the stuff you need but if you can't extract and process it then it's as good as useless.

Post edited at 13:59
 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to ThunderCat:

> I personally hope it will be more zombie oriented. <

Come to where I live. The Bus station even featured in a zombie movie

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Quite, case in point is rare earths, they aren't really that rare loads of new deposits were found in the last "rare earth crisis". the real bottlenecks that cause supply shortages is China's dominance of processing technology (and their willingness not to worry about the large amount of super nasty waste the processing produces).

 Jon Read 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Nuclear war, anyone?

 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Jon Read:

> Nuclear war, anyone?

That's the most frightening to me. Too many near misses so far 

 Martin Hore 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Jon Read:

> Nuclear war, anyone?

Worryingly not so far fetched in the next few years with China seemingly intent to "re-unite" Taiwan and threatening nuclear retaliation against any country that tries to prevent it (eg Japan, Australia). Does the "West" have a workable plan of response if China does take military action to reunite Taiwan? It's not at all clear to me how it could be prevented.

Martin

 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Martin Hore:

> China..... threatening nuclear retaliation against any country that tries to prevent it (eg Japan, Australia).....

That's very worrying, and I didn't know that. Thanks. I'm not getting at you at all, but I wonder if you could supply a reference for that, e.g. an article in the media? Thanks very much again 

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Jon Read:

> Nuclear war, anyone?


Ah one of the classics. I remember back in the 70's/80's when it was really popular

 henwardian 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Talking about Europe and the USA:

> My top contenders are…

> A second Carrington event -

It might take a few years to get infrastructure rebuilt but beyond inconvenience, I doubt there would be much negative impact on most peoples lives in survival terms.

> Yellowstone park super volcano eruption – choking clouds, blocking out the sun.

It's already being monitored. If it they can predict it (tricky, I hear), they could evacuate the western half of the USA, that shouldn't be too hard to achieve, it's probably not more than about 100 million people. If not, 100 million dead wouldn't be a back-to-the-dark-ages scenario, just a "world progress on pause for a decade" scenario.

Luckily we already have loads of masks left over from Covid to stop us breathing in the ash in the days following.

Sure it would be bad for food supplies for a few years (probably not stretching to a decade) but I recon we'd get through it without too much trouble, changing crops grown to deal with temperature difference, eating a load of the world canned-food supply.

I can't see it being that bad an impact on human progress and population (it helps that the USA is one of the best-equipped countries to deal with a major catastrophe like this).

> The fresh water crisis – As the climate warms it may be likely that future wars are fought over water and other such resources

Nah.

I mean you can cut water usage massively by just adopting some simple solutions like meters and rationing for every household, converting to dry-drop toilets, etc. Even before you get to this, you can probably just desalinate sea water for most/all uses.

> Another deadly pandemic – as outlined above.

Hmm... You have to consider that a number of countries managed to completely contain/prevent entry to the virus and this was for something weaksauce like Covid. If you had a situation were average age and young people were dying in the 25-50%+ range I think the knee-jerk reaction by every single person, village, town, city, government, etc. would be enough to cut down transmission long enough to find a vaccine and if you think covid vaccines were fast-tracked, that's nothing to how fast a vaccine to a true horror-virus would be tracked.

> Food shortages/refugees/Rising sea levels – less land for farming. I know some people think that as the earth warms...

Nah. It's gradual, even in the worse-case scenarios you have decades to sort stuff out and as such society would adapt to it, there are all sorts of things that could be brought into play from outlawing cattle and sheep to feeding everyone with fungus grown in giant vats (squish it into shapes and sprinkle flavouring and nobody knows the difference). 

> Mass extinctions – Aside from the loss of cute animals for David Attenborough to visit this would also include pollinators such as bees.

Mankind are already a mass-extinction event and as such we are proving every day that we can get along just fine without most of the species on the earth.

> Lack of resources – by which I am thinking of all the stuff we mine to make the stuff we like.

Nah. There isn't anything I'm aware of that is going to actually run out in the forseeable future (say 50 or 100 years). Whether it's rare earth metals or lithium or gold, there is more than enough around, it's just difficult and expensive to extract.

> Now the human race is very adaptable and eventually could find ways around most of the above but the more complex and interlinked a society is the more vulnerable it is to a cataclysmic event (not the humans the society). Reliance on lots of different things all working together makes something prone to disaster if one of those things goes wrong. My experience of empty shops during lockdown made me realise how dependent we are on swift delivery of goods. I am not saying that society is about to collapse but it struck me that when it does it could happen very quickly and strike out of the blue.

> So my question is can we as a society dependent on phones, internet, wi-fi etc. mitigate against potential disaster and are we likely to even bother?

Yes, we can, no, we won't bother. What we will do is piece everything back together faster than you can say "quarterly earnings report". Even in an extremely severe example of anything above, I think more than half the world's population would survive and that's enough to keep the expertise built up over the past 10 000 years or so. So I can see progress as a species (however we define that) as going on hold for anything up to a decade in acute, sudden scenarios above but generally in the chronic scenarios, I see the world adapting and continuing to move forwards (at least scientifically).

However, if you live in Nigeria or somalia or something then the answer to every scenario is probably "you are ****ed".

In essentially every single one of the scenarios you detailed, the poorest are going to bear the brunt of the consequences.

4
 Flinticus 28 Jul 2021
In reply to ThunderCat:

Get a boat!

 Forest Dump 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Spice is a hell of a drug

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to henwardian:

> Talking about Europe and the USA:

on second Carrington event:

> It might take a few years to get infrastructure rebuilt but beyond inconvenience, I doubt there would be much negative impact on most peoples lives in survival terms.<

Just curious why you think there wouldn't be much negative impact? The thinking goes that "the big one", when it hits (about once every 500 years, if not sooner) would be powerful enough to knock out electrical and communications systems across Earth for days, months, or even years – nixing power grids, satellites, GPS, the internet, telephones, transportation systems, banking, you name it. The fall out from all that would not be pleasant

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to henwardian:

>

> In essentially every single one of the scenarios you detailed, the poorest are going to bear the brunt of the consequences.<

certainly on the money with this one

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Worth getting your hands on Lewis Dartnell's "The Knowledge" if you're worried about societal collapse (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Knowledge-Rebuild-World-After-Apocalypse/dp/0099575833/ref=mp_s_a_1_1).

Given the opportunity, I for one intend to rebuild society should the apocalypse occur in my lifetime. 

When it comes to rebuilding climbing I'll ban the word "send", bring back tights, and properly grade TPS.

Post edited at 17:06
 Rob Exile Ward 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Shani:

If there's only 2 people left in the world there will still be 3 hotly argued grades for TPS.

 Martin Hore 28 Jul 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

> That's very worrying, and I didn't know that. Thanks. I'm not getting at you at all, but I wonder if you could supply a reference for that, e.g. an article in the media? Thanks very much again 

You're right to question the source of course. It came up a few days ago on my Microsoft News (Bing) feed. Googling "China threat to Japan" just now produces several results quoting the same Chinese source eg "WW3 Fears As China Threatens To NUKE Japan On Eve Of Olympics If It Intervenes In Taiwan Conflict (Thesun.Co.Uk) - Bing News". I wouldn't normally credit The Sun as reliable, but there are other references to the same Chinese source too. The Australian link is just a single Australian politician warning about a similar threat to Australia given the current commitment by Australia, Japan and US to defend Taiwan. He questions whether the US would actually act in this case.

My own (uninformed) view is that there is little US, Australia and/or Japan could do if China decided to invade Taiwan and it's unlikely they would intervene militarily, but the whole situation is, as you say, very worrying.

Martin

 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Martin Hore:

Thanks a lot for your detailed reply, Martin, that's helpful 

I think there's a lot the US COULD do in case of invasion, given the forces they have readily available. But like you, I do not believe they would intervene militarily 

 Flinticus 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Winding you up?

The consequences would be huge. What would happen to the shipment of food around the world, not to mention its production and payment. Medicine? Security? Travel? Mass anarchy across the world. 

 Fat Bumbly2 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Socialy distanced Mothra?

Bumrah is due soon. Will be tw*tting a few batsmen.  

Post edited at 17:48
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I've been saying it for ages now, we're putting a pitiful amount of money globally into giant fire-breathing lizard research. Unforgivable unpreparedness. 

 henwardian 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> on second Carrington event:

> Just curious why you think there wouldn't be much negative impact?

Didn't Ireland function just fine for like an entire year with no banks in the 1970s? Paper copies of things can replace electronic ones for all sorts of business transactions, it just takes longer for them to get around. I'm pretty sure we could get transport going again in relatively short order just by bypassing the slagged computers in cars and making them work the old-fashioned way until complex manufacture got back up to speed with making silicon chips. Also while it might be enough to bring down all the infrastructure, it's only going to take out some key components at key junctions, so most of the infrastructure would survive and just need to be connected back up again (still a big task mind). I don't know how many generations of factories it takes to get from smelting iron ore to making laser diodes, hubble telescopes and stealth bombers but it can't be more than 4 or 5.... there would be an unprecedented scramble to built that infrastructure back up again but just think how quickly we could do it without youtube and smart phones, the workforce would gain about an additional 200% productivity!

Also, as long as it happens at night with a clear sky I think the destruction is a small price to pay for the _incredible_ auroras we'd see!

 Trangia 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

My own demise which is very likely to occur within the next couple of decade or so. Yes, I'm a glass half full type

In reply to ThunderCat:

I have my zombie plan sorted. I have the keys to a few borehole water sites that happen to have very high fences and plenty of room inside. Water will be the biggest problem.

Weapon wise I'm very proficient with a bow and still have a lot of arrow making equipment. I'm also proficient enough with a sword to get by and own a shotgun for defending myself from people.

Zombie weapon of choice, the crowbar. You can cave in a skull with the hooked end, flip it round to stab, use it to jemmy open doors, use it for extra reach, say hooking it over the edge of a low roof to help climb up.

Key thing though above all else, build a second gate at the entrance to the compound to act as a safe area / air lock. Before anyone comes in they have to strip off for inspection between the 2 gates. If movies teach us anything it's that someone will get bitten and come back in, turn and kill everyone. 

In reply to ThunderCat:

> I personally hope it will be more zombie oriented.  I've watched enough zombie films / series and spent enough time tutting at the screen saying "why the hell are you doing that" to be able to stay well ahead of the game, ie:

> Get proficient using a machete or some other hand held weapon.  Don't be emptying hundreds of bullets at a target when you know that bullets aren't being manufactured anymore, and that zombies are attracted by noise.

I'm going to have to stop you there.

One word, maggots.

Lots of rotting meat wandering about, hot sun, give it a month or two. The place will be covered in bluebottles, but no zombies.

Or possibly, foxes. Or bears and wolves, in other countries. Which is a reasonable excuse to rewild London. Yes there will be some collateral damage, but it's pre-emptive. You'll thank me one day.

 Jon Read 28 Jul 2021
In reply to dread-i:

Blowflies (the green ones), not bluebottles. I had to count 100s of them and their maggoty offspring every few days as part of an ecology project years ago; I wouldn't want to wish that vision of zombie apocalypse on anyone...

 wintertree 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Billy Joel really needs to update "We didn't start the fire".

The new ones "Rock and roll and water wars.  We didn't start the fire and we can't put it out..."

The next threat could be something we didn't anticipate.  We should be prepared for that.  How?

I think the best preparation is a strong and health society, both nationally and internationally.  Well distributed production of food and goods, elimination of absolute poverty, having deliberate slack and buffers in systems not running every last thing JITed to the max, not allowing any critical part or raw material to become single source, strong education, strong social welfare, and building a strong, tripartite  trust between the scientific establishments, governments and the people.  To achieve this, a f**koff big stick needs taking to the media in terms of ownership, independence, partisan reporting and frankly honesty.  Strong, well funded science with a healthy mix of blue skies and applications (something that's getting worse lately IMO).

If you want a doomsday scenario, imagine if this virus had landed 20 years ago - almost no ability to WFH, nothing like the screening capacity, nowhere near ready to make a vaccine, online shopping for food and supplies basically non existent, none of the medical research done after SARS at our disposal, nothing like the level of tools in the life sciences to understand the virus or its mechanisms.  It could have been horrific.  Shows how unprepared we were...

Post edited at 19:58
 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to henwardian:

> Didn't Ireland function just fine for like an entire year with no banks in the 1970s? Paper copies of things can replace electronic ones for all sorts of business transactions......

Yes, but the 1970s were a long time ago. I wonder if the world is a far different place now, in 2021? Personally I wouldn't be surprised if we were all 100% f*cked if all the computers go down..... what would we lose? Communications, food distribution, health records and management, transportation (air and rail and sea), manufacturing, finance, employment, etc., doesn't look good to me

In reply to wintertree:

I'd look at supply chains generally.  Why do we export food products and import the self same thing, for instance?  Food miles are a bad thing, and while I accept we will want to import stuff that is out of season to some extent we really need to think a lot more self-contained in this regard.

While you're right that COVID 30 years ago would have been a massive disaster (I hate to think what Spanish Flu was like) supply chains back then were that bit simpler and more sustainable.

Post edited at 20:56
 mondite 28 Jul 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

> Communications, food distribution, health records and management, transportation (air and rail and sea), manufacturing, finance, employment, etc., doesn't look good to me

Yeah considering just how much stuff is tied to gps for example (not just the obvious where am I but how many systems use it for time synchronisation) I think there would be rather massive shortages and serious unrest before things "recovered". I think the bodycount would be rather high.

 Duncan Bourne 28 Jul 2021
In reply to henwardian:

As someone said the 70's were less automated than they are now. Ireland wasn't a cashless society back then. You could swap eggs for stamps if you wanted.

If your money disappears over night and there is no paper back up to say exactly how much you had in your account how do you get re-imbursed? How do manufacture old fashioned cars if all your robot factories are geared up to making modern computer ones and the robots don't work either? If nothing gets to your supermarket for a month how do you eat? And how do inform anyone that you are having difficulty if no phones work? And all the power grids are down? Not to mention all your raw materials coming from abroad.

I have no doubt that eventually something would emerge but it certainly isn't going to be as easy as going up to the attic and digging out the abacus.

Post edited at 21:07
 Myfyr Tomos 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

You mean Harry Kane going to City? 

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Its OK, I rescued a book of 4 figure log tables, so we can still do sums.

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I'd put money on a cme/Carrington event. So little warning, barely time to protect anything. Zero power, nor cash, no financial transaction, no food, no rail, no light at night, no piped water...

Imagine a city full of people who've not eaten for 3 days, it's pitch black at night and with say the USAs gun control laws. 

 J101 28 Jul 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan is well worth a read, set in a world where the internet just vanishes one day.

He writes as a journalist on the ever increasing complexity of supply chains mainly, also worth a read although it makes for some sobering thinking about how dependent we are on just in time world wide distribution.

 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to J101:

> Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan is well worth a read, set in a world where the internet just vanishes one day.> He writes as a journalist on the ever increasing complexity of supply chains mainly, also worth a read although it makes for some sobering thinking about how dependent we are on just in time world wide distribution.

Thank you very much for that

 mondite 28 Jul 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

Surely you dont need any help in thinking about worse case scenarios?

 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to mondite:

> Surely you dont need any help in thinking about worse case scenarios?

Errrr I'm profitofdoom (named after the climb on Curbar), not prophetofdoom! Thanks anyway

 Jon Read 28 Jul 2021
In reply to wintertree:

SARS1 was nearly 20 years ago. 

In reply to henwardian:

> I mean you can cut water usage massively by just adopting some simple solutions like meters and rationing for every household, converting to dry-drop toilets, etc. Even before you get to this, you can probably just desalinate sea water for most/all uses.

It's not as easy as it seems, Cape Town nearly ran out of water a few years ago and it was pretty bad with several solutions being applied (meters have been defacto for years) but still not helping much without having taps running at a drip for days on end.. they have now recovered though and have the opposite problem of too much water! (Global warming for you!) 

Desalination plants are extremely costly and take quite a while to build apparently so thats not a solution either without any foresight and $$$$! 

 wintertree 28 Jul 2021
In reply to Jon Read:

> SARS1 was nearly 20 years ago. 

Indeed.  It was also clearly serious enough that it got one hell of a response that boxed it up and contained it pretty early on - and it was contained by epidemiology not by vaccination.

If this one came out back then, got the same initial "meh" response (*) from a lot of western governments and so got in to widespread international community transmission before people realised how serious it was, what would have happened?  

As I understand it we didn't then have any of the platforms rapidly adapted to make the  currently deployed vaccines back then.  If control had been lost, how much longer would it have been before we had vaccines?  Years is my guess.  Perhaps the inactivated virus approach could have still worked back then, I don't know enough to know how much that area has changed in 20 years, and whilst the Chinese one doesn't' seem very effective, Valneva's one does.  Whilst waiting for the vaccines, little WFH, little online shopping, nothing like the ability to scale PCR testing - it would have been grim.

Perhaps if this had come out back then we'd have responded differently because we couldn't have afforded to loose control.  Cabinet certainly had a different set of competencies and drivers back then.

(*) - I recall that you were the first to raise this as a looming threat on UKC.  "One to watch" or similar.  You weren't wrong!

 mondite 28 Jul 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

> Errrr I'm profitofdoom (named after the climb on Curbar), not prophetofdoom! Thanks anyway


pah I cant read.

Can you change your name so it works?

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

'Return of the Black Death' was repeated on More 4 the other day. It pointed out that, in spite of huge losses, up to 60% of the population in places, they managed to retain a semblance of Christian funeral ritual, recognising the importance of maintaining social function. Legal function, such as the writing and enrolment of wills, also continued. It also discussed the famine caused by three years of terrible weather 1315-1317. Things got pretty bad then, and a fair bit of folklore arose: Hansel & Gretel's abandonment, etc.

Post edited at 23:11
 profitofdoom 28 Jul 2021
In reply to mondite:

> Can you change your name so it works?

I wish! 

Let's just assume I can't spel "prophet"..... Ooooh doom, gloom, suits me

In reply to profitofdoom:

> Errrr I'm profitofdoom (named after the climb on Curbar), not prophetofdoom! Thanks anyway

One of my earliest ropes did about the fourth or fifth ascent, not with me on either end, I just watched 😁

 ThunderCat 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Dax H:

> I have my zombie plan sorted. I have the keys to a few borehole water sites that happen to have very high fences and plenty of room inside. Water will be the biggest problem.

> Weapon wise I'm very proficient with a bow and still have a lot of arrow making equipment. I'm also proficient enough with a sword to get by and own a shotgun for defending myself from people.

> Zombie weapon of choice, the crowbar. You can cave in a skull with the hooked end, flip it round to stab, use it to jemmy open doors, use it for extra reach, say hooking it over the edge of a low roof to help climb up.

> Key thing though above all else, build a second gate at the entrance to the compound to act as a safe area / air lock. Before anyone comes in they have to strip off for inspection between the 2 gates. If movies teach us anything it's that someone will get bitten and come back in, turn and kill everyone. 

I'm hoping our shared bond over The Last Of Us and all things giraffe will be enough of an incentive to offer me an invite...

 Jon Read 29 Jul 2021
In reply to wintertree:

> Indeed.  It was also clearly serious enough that it got one hell of a response that boxed it up and contained it pretty early on - and it was contained by epidemiology not by vaccination.

The feeling afterwards was that we were lucky with SARS-CoV-1, with infectiousness corresponding well with symptoms in individuals meant existing contact tracing could get on top of the infectious wave. However, I wonder if that will be re-examined in light of the role of asymptomatic spread for SARS-CoV-2? Also. International travel was pretty different, and the interconnectedness of China to the rest of the world was also different, helping to limit importations.  For e.g., it spread to Canada from Hong Kong, not from mainland China directly. 

 bouldery bits 29 Jul 2021
In reply to ThunderCat:

> I'm hoping our shared bond over The Last Of Us and all things giraffe will be enough of an incentive to offer me an invite...

Ive watched enough Mad Max to know I don't need any of you people.

 VictorM 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Martin Hore:

> You're right to question the source of course. It came up a few days ago on my Microsoft News (Bing) feed. Googling "China threat to Japan" just now produces several results quoting the same Chinese source eg "WW3 Fears As China Threatens To NUKE Japan On Eve Of Olympics If It Intervenes In Taiwan Conflict (Thesun.Co.Uk) - Bing News". I wouldn't normally credit The Sun as reliable, but there are other references to the same Chinese source too. The Australian link is just a single Australian politician warning about a similar threat to Australia given the current commitment by Australia, Japan and US to defend Taiwan. He questions whether the US would actually act in this case.

> My own (uninformed) view is that there is little US, Australia and/or Japan could do if China decided to invade Taiwan and it's unlikely they would intervene militarily, but the whole situation is, as you say, very worrying.

> Martin

Look at what happened after Russia annexed Crimea and started messing about in the rest of Ukraine. The whole world was being pissed off but essentially they got away with it because who would want to pick a direct fight with a nuclear power ruled by some of the best brink men in the world? 

If China really wants to 'reunite' with Taiwan they could get away with it, because nobody wants to ignite WW3 over something relatively small. 

 wercat 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

in our favour, 30 years ago politicians were a bit more solid and sensible -- I think we would have had more sensible, proper and actual decision making

In reply to wercat:

> in our favour, 30 years ago politicians were a bit more solid and sensible -- I think we would have had more sensible, proper and actual decision making

Yes, true, a lot less populism around back then.

 wercat 29 Jul 2021
In reply to MG:

We can send the calculation results by morse over my HF radios - I have a hand generator

and two of them are EMP proof so will survive a nuclear blast, specifically designed so to do.

> Its OK, I rescued a book of 4 figure log tables, so we can still do sums.

Post edited at 11:04
 Duncan Bourne 29 Jul 2021
In reply to captain paranoia:

Yup the Middle Ages were a bit shit.

The interesting thing is the social changes brought about by such events. Shortage of labour and a rise in prices.

From Wiki:

The great population loss brought favourable results to the surviving peasants in England and Western Europe. There was increased social mobility, as depopulation further eroded the peasants' already weakened obligations to remain on their traditional holdings. Seigneurialism never recovered. Land was plentiful, wages high, and serfdom had all but disappeared. It was possible to move about and rise higher in life. Younger sons and women especially benefited. As population growth resumed, however, the peasants again faced deprivation and famine.

In Eastern Europe, by contrast, renewed stringency of laws tied the remaining peasant population more tightly to the land than ever before through serfdom.

Furthermore, the plague's great population reduction brought cheaper land prices, more food for the average peasant, and a relatively large increase in per capita income among the peasantry, if not immediately, in the coming century. Since the plague left vast areas of farmland untended, they were made available for pasture and put more meat on the market; the consumption of meat and dairy products went up, as did the export of beef and butter from the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and northern Germany. However, the upper class often attempted to stop these changes, initially in Western Europe, and more forcefully and successfully in Eastern Europe, by instituting sumptuary laws. These regulated what people (particularly of the peasant class) could wear, so that nobles could ensure that peasants did not begin to dress and act as a higher class member with their increased wealth. Another tactic was to fix prices and wages, so that peasants could not demand more with increasing value. In England, the Statute of Labourers 1351 was enforced, meaning, no peasant could ask for more wages than in 1346. This was met with varying success depending on the amount of rebellion it inspired; such a law was one of the causes of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt in England.

 Andy Gamisou 29 Jul 2021
In reply to hokkyokusei:

> You forgot the possibility of an asteroid strike.

Effing unions. 

Post edited at 11:58
 Andy Gamisou 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

You missed out Earth being destroyed by Vogons.

 Timmd 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

We possibly can mitigate, and no we won't bother, like we're only going 'oh shit' about climate change when the effects start to be felt/visible. 

Happy days huh?  

Post edited at 13:18
TradDad 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I think the most likely outcome is that the fear of the 'end of the world as we know it' aka death anxiety will become further integrated with a particular ideology leading to the most boring and empty dystopia imaginable. Here we will be lining up for voluntary euthanasia only to have our resources claimed by the privileged left overs consuming the metaphorical Soylent Green. Enjoy 

4
 GrahamD 29 Jul 2021
In reply to henwardian:

I admire your optimism about the relatively benign outcome of a major Carrington event.  Food supplies would dry up for most within a week of us losing electricity. 

 Duncan Bourne 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

They did that already. This is Earth B

 Duncan Bourne 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Timmd:

>  we're only going 'oh shit' about climate change when the effects start to be felt/visible. 

I think you mean felt/visible more

 Duncan Bourne 29 Jul 2021
In reply to TradDad:

on the plus side every disaster we've had so far has opened the door to socio-political changes. So there's always an upside.

Death anxiety is a curious thing. I was a lot more concerned about it when younger than I am now

 wintertree 29 Jul 2021
In reply to GrahamD:

> I admire your optimism about the relatively benign outcome of a major Carrington event.  Food supplies would dry up for most within a week of us losing electricity. 

I have a plan for a charity that's a combination of "Zombie Day Preparedness" (as a catch all for disasters) and food bank donation.

I have a problem with the idea - the UK should not need food banks, and normalising them is the worst thing we can do as it helps the state abdicate basic responsibilities.  But I also think it's more important that people don't go hungry than that political points are made.

It would work something like this:

  • A household places a regular direct debit, say £50 every year, for a "Zombie Day Box" .
  • The box is delivered with a tamper proof seal.  
  • The box contains long shelf life food, ready to eat, for a family of 4 to last for a couple of weeks, along with a couple of days worth of bottled water and a "LifeStraw" type water filter.
  • The food has at least 18 months until its expiry date.
  • After 12 months, the box is taken away, the tamper seal is inspected, the food goes to food banks and the water filter goes back in to another box.
  • A fresh box is delivered when the old one is taken away. 

This way, people donate to food banks and maintain a 2-week buffer ensuring they won't starve after a major disaster and, short of a proper nuclear apocalypse, won't die over water issues.

 J101 29 Jul 2021
In reply to GrahamD:

Fresh water would be more of a problem than food, and sewage even more of a problem. 

Assuming you can get some fuel for a fire you can at least boil water to help sterilisation but once the sewage system stops working in built up areas you're going to have bad problems really fast.

 Timmd 29 Jul 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> >  we're only going 'oh shit' about climate change when the effects start to be felt/visible. 

> I think you mean felt/visible more

Yeah. 

 Duncan Bourne 30 Jul 2021
In reply to J101:

built up areas would present the biggest problem. Lots of people competing for dwindling/non-existant resources.

Went for a nice walk yesterday alongside a river and came across an off-grid house with a garden full of veg and its own well. A person with reasonable backwoods skills could probably survive they quite well.

I often think the biggest problem would be other people. If anarchy ruled then there would be nothing to stop those who had the strength taking what they want from those who had what they wanted. A bit like large corporations only with more sticks and knives

 PaulTclimbing 01 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

One way to adapt would be to plant trees. Seeded and planted on somewhere in Western Europe. Brought on in Holland and transported in their thousands to whole scale be put onto a Neolithic landscape and thus introducing the next generation to a 1000 year blight, but something possibly will survive. Oh the sad irony of it all. 

 PaulTclimbing 01 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:


Neolithic Menhirs like Stonehenge were put up in a Neolithic down turn. Could boost tourism in future generations if we all start working together as a team and put some rocks up. 

In reply to wintertree:

Sweden took a lot of stick in 2018/19 for sending out a booklet to every household called "preparing for crisis or war".

It was about food stocks, long life products, water, candles, old school matches, heating, cooking, battery power banks, lighting etc... however there was certainly no run to the shops for toilet roll or flour one year later when covid arrived.

Post edited at 07:00
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> I often think the biggest problem would be other people. If anarchy ruled then there would be nothing to stop those who had the strength taking what they want from those who had what they wanted. A bit like large corporations only with more sticks and knives

If it all goes completely wrong, anyone with a gun would rule pretty quickly. Those who had a weapon thinking it would be used to hunt and feed themselves, would more likely need it for defence in the first few weeks, then things would settle after a month or so when the majority have starved. 

 fmck 01 Aug 2021
In reply to summo:

Roughly 15 odd years ago I went to climb Elbrus. On a acclimatise pre trek we approached a village with a guy standing with a shot gun. The guide went to talk with him and the result was we had to walk round the village as we were westerners. Russian parties following were allowed through. It kind of demonstrated how lawless the place was when all you had to have was a weapon nobody else had to rule.

In reply to VictorM:

Its 110 miles from mainland China to Taiwan.That is a long way in terms of a seaborne invasion . As the USA keeps telling Taiwan to build up its coastal defences with low cost land to sea missiles it is probably easier to defend than most people think. Having a repeat D-Day invasion would be pretty hard to do.

Of course countries like China and to a lesser extent Spain( Gibraltar) and Argentina ( Falklands) could adopt a far softer and more welcoming attitude which wins the citizens over etc etc. But for some unknown reason countries have a habit of being belligerent and unwelcoming.Using soft power and winning hearts and minds would be a better strategy than being shrill.

 jkarran 02 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

> It might take a few years to get infrastructure rebuilt but beyond inconvenience, I doubt there would be much negative impact on most peoples lives in survival terms...

I started out reading that whole post as a satire on our complacency.

> In essentially every single one of the scenarios you detailed, the poorest are going to bear the brunt of the consequences.

Rich or poor the disasters which block out sunlight or destroy our technology kill billions through famine and resource conflict.

jk

 Duncan Bourne 02 Aug 2021
In reply to jkarran:

Found a neat little website showing what sea levels rises would mean for different countries

http://flood.firetree.net/?ll=51.9234,-4.8505&zoom=10.123323160807292&m=20

 henwardian 02 Aug 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

> Yes, but the 1970s were a long time ago. I wonder if the world is a far different place now, in 2021? Personally I wouldn't be surprised if we were all 100% f*cked if all the computers go down..... what would we lose? Communications, food distribution, health records and management, transportation (air and rail and sea), manufacturing, finance, employment, etc., doesn't look good to me

I just think that backup systems would get running (albeit at a lower efficiency) pretty quickly. I can imagine that even getting 1% of most of these systems back up would be enough to connect major cities by phone, enable delivery of food and get some sort of health system going for basic conditions (probably people with tricky conditions would mostly be screwed though). And with the basics of society stabilised, I would expect that all rest of the infrastructure would be repaired in just a few years... maybe a decade.

I mean just think of how much food we already throw away? How much data and communication we waste doing pointless garbage. How many fruits/vegetables we get flown in fresh from the other side of the world because "just eat potatoes" isn't something your average Brit would like to hear. If you stripped off the luxuries, I wouldn't be surprised if you found that the UK could run just fine on 10% of the bandwidth, 15% of the vehicles, 20% of the power consumption, 30% of the housing and 2% of the electronics goods!

 henwardian 02 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> As someone said the 70's were less automated than they are now. Ireland wasn't a cashless society back then. You could swap eggs for stamps if you wanted.

> How do manufacture old fashioned cars if all your robot factories are geared up to making modern computer ones and the robots don't work either?

I was more thinking that in the interim, you just juryrig the existing cars so that they work without the computer making them work - the fundamentals of a car are mechanical, the computer essentially just makes it run more cleanly and efficiently.

> If nothing gets to your supermarket for a month how do you eat?

In the short term you revert to more basic diet. It's tricky to google but the sense I get is that the UK could just about be self-sufficient in food with a bit of rationing in the present day. Planting and harvesting it without functioning machines would certainly present a bit of a problem for the first couple of years.

> And how do inform anyone that you are having difficulty if no phones work?

You send a friend or relative to run to the nearest town or city. I think you could have a skeleton network of phones functioning again at least connecting major cities very quickly. Obviously complex and acute medical conditions would mostly result in death to begin with though.

> And all the power grids are down? Not to mention all your raw materials coming from abroad.

Recycle what we've got. Remember, it's only small parts of things that are broken; you don't need to make a whole new car, just a few bits of electronics, you don't need to make a whole new power network, just some..... transformers and stuff?

> I have no doubt that eventually something would emerge but it certainly isn't going to be as easy as going up to the attic and digging out the abacus.

 wercat 02 Aug 2021
In reply to summo:

> If it all goes completely wrong, anyone with a gun would rule pretty quickly. Those who had a weapon thinking it would be used to hunt and feed themselves, would more likely need it for defence in the first few weeks, then things would settle after a month or so when the majority have starved. 


That was certainly the message I took clearly from the original BBC Pandemic series in the 1970s - "Survivors".

 Duncan Bourne 02 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

I think you are clutching at straws here

Could you jury rig a car?

What basic diet can people in cities get without going to the supermarket? The Uk has long ceased to be self sufficient with food.

I love the idea of people running to the nearest town and i do like your positive approach

 Ridge 02 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> The Uk has long ceased to be self sufficient with food.

IIRC nor since the Napoleonic Wars. We were in a right mess in terms of food prior to WW2, but survived it.

In reply to Ridge:

> IIRC nor since the Napoleonic Wars. We were in a right mess in terms of food prior to WW2, but survived it.

We grew more individually, ate more seasonally, foraged and ate more cheap cuts tripe, trotters etc.. and then the uk still needed to keep the shipping lanes open for some supplies. 

Post edited at 20:10
 Siward 02 Aug 2021
In reply to summo:

UK population of course was substantially smaller during WW2, by about 20 million, so self sufficiency may prove a challenge.

 henwardian 02 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> I think you are clutching at straws here

> Could you jury rig a car?

No, but a mechanic should be able to as it's part of their job, and we have plenty of mechanics to get enough cars going over a short enough period of time (if you sacrifice convenience, you really only need 1 car per 10 people or so even in the medium term and that only involves fixing about 1 in 5 of the ones we have). And if everything has gone to pot and you don't have to worry about emissions levels and MOT tests, you have a lot of room to make quick and dirty solutions.

> What basic diet can people in cities get without going to the supermarket? The Uk has long ceased to be self sufficient with food.

I did read a bit about this. People would have to eat a lot less meat but otherwise we should overall be ok on a net-calories basis, just with a more limited diet initially (and even with the depleted stocks, fish could go a long way to making up shortfalls for coastal areas, there are a load of things we don't currently eat, like seals and dolphins, which could help plug the gap in the short term too.). The key would be: Could we figure out some way to keep productivity of our intensive farms at their present level with less technology and do it from the word "go" basically. I think a lot of your city folk would probably end up helping this effort.

I think food would go from the coutryside (where there is more than is needed) to the cities, in much the same way as it does today.

> I love the idea of people running to the nearest town and i do like your positive approach

Oh, I missed a trick - bicycles would still be fine of course.

I'm quite a practical person though, so it's possible that people without any idea of how to be hands-on would struggle a lot more.

 mondite 02 Aug 2021
In reply to neilh:

> it is probably easier to defend than most people think. Having a repeat D-Day invasion would be pretty hard to do.

Depends how many people you are willing to sacrifice for the cause really. Lets hope China doesnt hit any significant economic problems since then the chances of an invasion, successful or otherwise, would be rather high.

Even if unsuccessful TSMC getting bombed to bits would have a rather negative impact on the world.

> Using soft power and winning hearts and minds would be a better strategy than being shrill.

It is odd isnt it especially for Gibraltar and the Falklands. Some effort put into being nice (okay a lot for the Falklands after the war) and the chances of success would be so much higher.

 Duncan Bourne 02 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

The only fly in the oinment is time. Shops would run out of food within days (this has occured elsewhere before when supplies are distrupted) and unless you hit harvest time then food simply won't be available until you grow it which will take longer than it takes a large number of the population to starve. It is not only that you would have to spend time repairing vehicles with burn out electrics without electricity but you would also run out of fuel (some petrol pumps can be manually pumped) and have to convert to other forms of fuel which again takes time. Any organisation would have to be local because of communication and rely on whatever resources could be had locally. So no fish if you live in Sheffield. Likewise you would have to come up with ways to preserve food (pickling etc.) without fridges. Generally speaking you could get the power in cities up relatively quickly, rural areas would suffer worse due to burned out transformers and the difficulty in replacing them quickly. Nobody would have money initially so supplies would have to be free or on credit. It could easily take a month or two to even start to get things moving.

 Webster 02 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

you dont seem to understand the consequences of a geological event such as a worst case scenario yellowstone eruption... sure if it does go off in our lifetimes, chances are it wont be a 'worst case scenario' event, but if it does happen it will impact far more than just the western US. sure,  Its not an extinction level event such as the deccan trapps, but it would put society back decades and kill thousands, perhaps millions both directly and indirectly.

Aside from the immediate impacts of the volcano - lava, ash etc which would kill anybody unable to evacuate in time, vast swaths of north america would become completely uninhabitable, including major cities and swaths of food producing land. sure there is physically room on the planet for those displaced people, but not to live in the way that we in the west have become accustomed to.

and then you have the volcanic winter, which may last years! the impact on food production globally would be fairly catastrophic. its not just as simple as growing different crops in different places to meet our needs, and even if it was, that change couldnt happen over night. there would be major food shortages in the west as supply chains are broken, leading to looting and riots etc. in the develping world there would be famines leading to wars...

and then when 'the dust has finally settled' and the weather starts returning to 'normal' we would see a very rapid acceleration in global warming as the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions from the eruption starts to outweigh the emissions which have previously reflected the suns radiation, flipping from one extreme to the other, just as we are starting to recover and adapt the food supply chains to the situation...

 wintertree 02 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

100 posts in and nobody has mentioned a nearby star going supernova?  That’s a good one.

In reply to wintertree:

> 100 posts in and nobody has mentioned a nearby star going supernova?  That’s a good one.

That's not really a problem we need to consider because we would be totally f***ed and the technology to deal with that is only available in SF.

Most of the scenarios given above would kill a significant proportion of humanity but as a species we'd be likely to survive. Recovery would be relatively quick (i.e. <century) because we'd probably retain the majority of the necessary knowledge.

The deal breaker is a large asteroid. That's why IMO Musk is right that we need to establish a self sufficient society on Mars. They wouldn't be able to "rescue" Earth but eventually once any disturbance had settled down, they would if necessary be able to recolonize the Earth.

 deepsoup 03 Aug 2021
In reply to wintertree:

> That’s a good one.

With no survivors and no post-apocalyptic landscape to imagine them scratching a living in, probably not even enough time to perceive what's happening before it's all over, there really isn't anything much to talk about though.

 VictorM 03 Aug 2021
In reply to neilh:

> Its 110 miles from mainland China to Taiwan.That is a long way in terms of a seaborne invasion . As the USA keeps telling Taiwan to build up its coastal defences with low cost land to sea missiles it is probably easier to defend than most people think. Having a repeat D-Day invasion would be pretty hard to do.

> Of course countries like China and to a lesser extent Spain( Gibraltar) and Argentina ( Falklands) could adopt a far softer and more welcoming attitude which wins the citizens over etc etc. But for some unknown reason countries have a habit of being belligerent and unwelcoming.Using soft power and winning hearts and minds would be a better strategy than being shrill.

From a tactical/strategic point of view you are right. I'm just talking about the political level. If they wanted to, they could get away with it. Not to say that I am 100% sure they will do it or they would even do it militarily, but just that, politically, when push comes to shove, I'm not sure if they can be stopped. 

 Duncan Bourne 03 Aug 2021
In reply to wintertree:

I did think of that but couldn't think of any likely candidates (ie stars likely to go supernova close enough to be a problem to earth)

 wercat 03 Aug 2021
In reply to wintertree:

or something coming in from the Oort Cloud?

> 100 posts in and nobody has mentioned a nearby star going supernova?  That’s a good one.

 Mark Edwards 03 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

> I was more thinking that in the interim, you just juryrig the existing cars so that they work without the computer making them work - the fundamentals of a car are mechanical, the computer essentially just makes it run more cleanly and efficiently.

Just? As most cars (and even my basic single cylinder motorbike) don’t have a carburettor (and rely on computer controlled fuel injection) that’s a big problem to get around. Then there is the issue of how to add a set of points.

 wintertree 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Mark Edwards:

> Just? As most cars (and even my basic single cylinder motorbike) don’t have a carburettor (and rely on computer controlled fuel injection) that’s a big problem to get around. Then there is the issue of how to add a set of points.

Indeed.

Electronic ignition on modern petrol engines rules them out; none of the mechanical support is there for mechanical points.  You need electronics to phase-lock to the sensor and produce the timing signals.

The electronic control of injectors on modern diesels makes them thoroughly reliant on the computers.  Best I can think of there is to run them on butane or vaporised diesel piped in to the air intake...

 wintertree 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Michael Hood:

> The deal breaker is a large asteroid. That's why IMO Musk is right that we need to establish a self sufficient society on Mars. They wouldn't be able to "rescue" Earth but eventually once any disturbance had settled down, they would if necessary be able to recolonize the Earth.

Good reason to start on a giant space based radar system and planetary defence grid as well. Just make sure it's one that can't be easily pointed down, please.

Given the design concepts out there on feasible interstellar rockets and at least the possibility of realising the Alcubierre metric, it's kind of foolish to just sit here like a low hanging, juicy apple...

 deepsoup 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I was assuming that a gamma ray burst would do for us completely from half way across the galaxy (based on some sci-fi thing or other I read), but apparently not.  Here's another candidate for the list of hypothetical mass extinction events more interesting to contemplate than the one already happening right now:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-ray_burst#Effects_on_Earth

 deepsoup 03 Aug 2021
In reply to wintertree:

> .. it's kind of foolish to just sit here like a low hanging, juicy apple...

As a species and a global civilisation (in so far as we are one), "kind of foolish" is very much our style though.

 jkarran 03 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

> I was more thinking that in the interim, you just juryrig the existing cars so that they work without the computer making them work - the fundamentals of a car are mechanical, the computer essentially just makes it run more cleanly and efficiently.

Not really, a modern car doesn't without functioning electronics have the ability to meter fuel flow or produce timed sparks and most have significant, electronically controlled, freedom in the valve train timing too. It's possible to make a modern engine run on points and carbs but it would involve a very significant amount of work.

> In the short term you revert to more basic diet. It's tricky to google but the sense I get is that the UK could just about be self-sufficient in food with a bit of rationing in the present day. Planting and harvesting it without functioning machines would certainly present a bit of a problem for the first couple of years.

The UK hasn't been anywhere near self sufficient in food for decades and the bigger cities never would be without trade. Even if the crisis didn't reduce sunlight we'd be short of seed, tools and skills to overnight become self-sufficient.

> Recycle what we've got. Remember, it's only small parts of things that are broken; you don't need to make a whole new car, just a few bits of electronics, you don't need to make a whole new power network, just some..... transformers and stuff?

Which requires a functioning ecosystem: engineering, finance, power, trade, logistics, most of which are disrupted one way or another by the serious challenges being discussed. Cottage industry would of course flower in the absence of a working finance system but that doesn't mend a phone exchange, 500kV transformer or CT scanner.

jk

Post edited at 10:30
 jimtitt 03 Aug 2021
In reply to jkarran:

> Not really, a modern car doesn't, without functioning electronics, have the ability to meter fuel flow or produce timed sparks and most have significant, electronically controlled) freedom in the valve train timing too. It's possible to make a modern engine run on points and carbs but it would involve a very significant amount of work.

> The UK hasn't been anywhere near self sufficient in food for decades and the bigger cities never would be without trade. Even if the crisis didn't reduce sunlight we'd be short of seed, tools and skills to overnight become self-sufficient.

> Which requires a functioning ecosystem: engineering, finance, power, trade, logistics, most of which are disrupted one way or another by the serious challenges being discussed. Cottage industry would of course flower in the absence of a working finance system but that doesn't mend a phone exchange, 500kV transformer or CT scanner.

> jk

Your not kidding, decades ago we actually converted a "modern" injected engine to conventional ( there are still non-injected race series like Sprint cars) and with a fully-equipped machine shop it's doable but jury rigging it isn't. Farming would be well screwed, without the computer no modern tractor would ever move and modifying the gearbox so it would is going to be a horrific project.

The UK supplies 55% of it's food needs by value and with no powered agriculture probably it would be 5%, a look at the ration during WW2 is worthwhile!

 henwardian 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Mark Edwards:

Hey, like I said, I'm not a mechanic, I'm just an optimist

Wikipedia says we can just steal all the ones on lawn mowers (which we certainly will not need) and use those. You gotta have a can-do attitude man!

Dunno what points are but there is sure to be something we can use lying around, just look at how much stuff humanity has made.

 JHiley 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I'm confused. Is a plague of car-computer eating gremlins one of the catastrophic events under consideration here? How did all the computers get trashed? Or is this just an act of ROB like "what if all the humans vanished overnight?"

AFAIK the geomagnetic storms referenced are only* a threat to long distance power transmission, communication systems (particularly satellites) and astronauts. 

* I mean there are still serious effects, not exactly the apocalypse though, and definitely a lot more fixable than running around trying to replace every single piece of electronics.

 Duncan Bourne 03 Aug 2021
In reply to JHiley:

Interesting reply so I had a look:

 Basically you can screw up wireless coms, but nothing else without destroying the power grid first

What's happening is a massive magnetic pulse, similar to a nuclear EMP. A changing magnetic field induces electrical flow in a long length of wire. The long length of wire isn't just important — it's critical. As the wire gets shorter, the strength of the magnetic field must get stronger to induce the same electrical current. The induced current must be enough to either screw up computation (very unlikely) or to blow the device's circuitry (much more likely).

Therefore an electromagnetic (EM) event strong enough to knock out a single piece of electronic equipment would literally cause the wires in the power grid (above ground or underground, unless it was incredibly and therefore impractically deep underground) to vaporize.

Conclusion it's impossible to electromagnetically (EM) damage equipment on a global scale without incredible damage to the power grid. All those really long, easy-to-induce-current-into wires make it simply impossible.

However, a strong global EM event could devastate wireless communications while leaving the power infrastructure intact.

So computer based stuff could still work providing you get the power grid up and running ASAP

I didn't know that and now I do cheers

(Not sure what would happen to phone relays though)

Post edited at 12:58
 Ridge 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

As I understood it, the issues with 'space weather' in the past affected the US and Canada due to huge runs of power and telegraph wires (hundreds of miles). The UK grid has shorter runs, and far more trips and protective systems.

Loss of grid power (potentially up to 7 days) is a concern in the UK, but not (AFAIK) the total destruction of all electronic systems by natural events

 JHiley 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Cheers. It still sounds pretty terrible though and the cars only drive as long as they have fuel or charge...

 wercat 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I know people who have had equipment destroyed by EMP from a nearby lightning strike without wiring being hit.

the much laughed at valve equipment of the Red army of course is more resilient than semiconductor front ends.  During Desert Storm 1950s era "tube" receivers were brought back into service as static from sandstorms affected semiconductor front ends.

Post edited at 13:28
 fred99 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Webster:

> you dont seem to understand the consequences of a geological event such as a worst case scenario yellowstone eruption.........

> and then you have the volcanic winter, which may last years....

With this, generating electricity from the sun could well prove to be completely unworkable for the quantity required, as the amount of cr*p in the atmosphere would be terrible. If crops fail to grow properly, then I can't see photo-electric cells not suffering.

 fred99 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Mark Edwards:

> Just? As most cars (and even my basic single cylinder motorbike) don’t have a carburettor (and rely on computer controlled fuel injection) that’s a big problem to get around. Then there is the issue of how to add a set of points.

Buy an original Enfield Bullet - definitely "old school".

 Mark Edwards 03 Aug 2021
In reply to henwardian:

> Dunno what points are but there is sure to be something we can use lying around, just look at how much stuff humanity has made.

LOL. Kid’s today! You don’t know the fun you’re missing, having to adjust the points every few hundred miles. Add to that they were usually inside the distributor and removing the cap risked damaging the HT leads leading to even more fun.

Ah, the good old days.

youtube.com/watch?v=Y9wZvcr3v2c&

 Mark Edwards 03 Aug 2021
In reply to fred99:

> Buy an original Enfield Bullet - definitely "old school".

I never owned a bullet. I started out in the 70’s with a Puch step through then a 200 Yamaha (17th birthday present) and then a Norton Commando ..., so I recon I did my time. Spent way too long commuting from Wales to London on a couple of CBR1000’s but today am very happy with my three year old (almost) maintenance free CB300R that rarely goes further than the supermarket. And that just suits me fine.

 jimtitt 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Ridge:

> As I understood it, the issues with 'space weather' in the past affected the US and Canada due to huge runs of power and telegraph wires (hundreds of miles). The UK grid has shorter runs, and far more trips and protective systems.

> Loss of grid power (potentially up to 7 days) is a concern in the UK, but not (AFAIK) the total destruction of all electronic systems by natural events

But nuclear EMP's are a different beast!

In reply to ThunderCat:

Don't worry, there is a place for you and your family. Remembering old games would help pass the time when not fighting zombies and marauders.

The ideal situation would be to save most of the UKC forum members. With the diverse range of skill sets on here I'm sure we could thrive as a Community, that is assuming we actually get things done rather than pontificating about everything and pulling people up for bad use of gramme. 

TradDad 03 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> on the plus side every disaster we've had so far has opened the door to socio-political changes. So there's always an upside.

> Death anxiety is a curious thing. I was a lot more concerned about it when younger than I am now

High levels of death anxiety or death phobia have been fundamental in the sanitisation of rock climbing including its shift towards a reality tv inspired lifestyle choice social credit system epitomised by lattice et al. Emasculation has been an important part of this process where the adventures of the few have turned into the boring castrations of the many. 
Here’s your world ending dystopia right in this satanic little man...

https://mobile.twitter.com/camus37/status/1422638914976821253

1
 Duncan Bourne 03 Aug 2021
In reply to TradDad:

Yeah but what has he done of grit

 jkarran 03 Aug 2021
In reply to TradDad:

Right on, makes total sense.

Jk

 Lankyman 04 Aug 2021
In reply to Dax H:

> Don't worry, there is a place for you and your family. Remembering old games would help pass the time when not fighting zombies and marauders.

> The ideal situation would be to save most of the UKC forum members. With the diverse range of skill sets on here I'm sure we could thrive as a Community, that is assuming we actually get things done rather than pontificating about everything and pulling people up for bad use of gramme. 

'gramme'? Bad spelling or deliberate test to draw in potential members of the UKC Survivor Commune?

 wercat 04 Aug 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

that is why my radio has nuclear protection diodes, driven into conduction by ionising radiation (eg gamma rays).  I suppose it's not much use if I don't survive to use it!

I could always dig one of those trenches you cover with a nylon tarp and peg out tensioned to allow lots of soil/earth to be heaped over it in a mound ...  If I don't survive then I'm already in a grave!

In reply to Lankyman:

It was a deliberate trap to weed out those that I don't want in my compound. 

 Sredni Vashtar 04 Aug 2021
In reply to Martin Hore:

well we still haven't got a response to the covid crisis they largely created (lying about r rate etc) so i'll say no

 toad 04 Aug 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

The problem is...

We are Autumn children, burdened with memories of the sun

 wintertree 04 Aug 2021
In reply to Martin Hore:

> Does the "West" have a workable plan of response if China does take military action to reunite Taiwan? It's not at all clear to me how it could be prevented

The US Space Force and USAF are getting mighty, mighty interested in SpaceX's Starship launch vehicle and are starting to place R&D style contracts over payload readiness and transport applications.  I'm eagerly watching the game of chicken with the FAA as the completed booster rolls out to the pad (29 engines fitted literals overnight) and the orbital part comes together, in the absence of FAA launch approval.  I think behind the scenes the generals are going to be really pushing on this, it's the most transformative thing in space launch in decades. 

In as little as 2 months form now - and I doubt more than 18 months in a worst case - the US is going to have the ability to launch insanely heavy payloads to orbit.  The sort of thing USAF generals have been wanting for 30 years now - (and tried to get with the DC vehicle until politics and NASA killed that).  Who knows what orbital weapons platforms they have on the drawing board and in prototype waiting for launch capacity.  There's been a lot of work on hypervelocity impact test systems over the last decade.   

Things like orbital kinetic bombardment platforms spring to mind.  Get it right and it can provide both an ICBM interceptor and something that can take out boats on the long crossing to Taiwan (~100 miles IIRC?  Boats haven't got a lot faster since D-Day, at least not those that can carry heavy troops and tanks...)

Speculation and my usual wishful thinking over space stuff aside, Aegis Standard Missile 3 Block II-A has recently demonstrated an ICBM shoot-down.  I wouldn't be surprised to see an upgrade/conversion happening to our Type 45s soon.  Both Japan and Australia have been working with the US to integrate Aegis in to their warships.

Still, it would only take one pointy bit from one Chinese MIRV to get through and a lot of people are going to be glowing in the dark somewhere in the world.  One also assumes Putin is going to do something unpredictable and bad if it all kicks off; never really sure how much he's acting of his own volition and how much he's a plausibly deniable front for others who want low level grief to spread in the west pre-emptivly weakening us for their future. 

I also wonder if it’s been planned and communicated to the CCCP that all TSMC fabs will destroyed if an invasion starts; no small threat.

A lot of people will say that the interconnected finances of all the involved nations mean war is not conceivable, but that rather overlooks the self-destructive side of human nature in my pessimistic book.

Not unrelated - the ending of The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown was a very overt political statement on all this.

Post edited at 23:07

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