2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month Eleven

earth

Ever since the first atom bomb was detonated people became aware of our capacity to bring about our own extinction. One of the big fears spawning from the splitting of the atom was the likelihood of scientific accidents bringing about our downfall. Being that we’re so prone to making mistakes, it’s easy to worry that such destructive power has fallen on our clumsy hands.

Doomsday Scenario No. 2: Accidents Happen

The idea of a loaded gun given to a child is an apt metaphor of this doomsday scenario. Many people feel that we as a species are developing way too fast in terms of science and technology before we’re ready to truly understand the implications of new discoveries. By that concern, they point to our recent history with nuclear power.

Nuclear Fears

One of humanity’s deepest fears is that of an accidental nuclear weapons exchange. While it’s true the world powers that possess nuclear weapons have stringent safeguards there are the nagging doubt about their reliability. Back in the 1990s after the Cold War ended it became notoriously easy to acquire nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. The thought of such WMDs in the wrong hands is horrifying. But there is the possibility of failed safeguards. This was seen in the film and book Fail-Safe where U.S. bombers are mistakenly sent to bomb the Soviet Union. Despite all efforts, Moscow is destroyed and to avert World War III, the U.S. president arranges to restore the balance by having New York City nuked. A similar situation happened in the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove but to a more comedic effect. Accidental nuclear war has also been the subjects of many songs like Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (“99 Red Balloons”) or Men At Work’s “It’s A Mistake”. But what is deeply chilling is that many times military personnel and governments almost used nuclear weapons by mistake. One such incident happened in the mid 1990s when a rocket test launched in Europe was mistaken by Russia to be a nuclear first strike against them and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin was urged by his military to launch a nuclear counter-attack.

chernobylThen there are the problems with nuclear fission used as an energy source. For the most part, nuclear power plants are safe but the idea of a meltdown and the environmental impact is enough to keep most people leery about them. There was the Three Mile Island incident which thankfully ended well, but on the other hand we’ve had a nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl and most recently there was the Fukushima disaster in Japan. With Chernobyl that disaster left that city abandoned and uninhabitable to this day, while the impact of the Fukushima meltdown is still ongoing with an untold number of people having been exposed to deadly radiation.

Tomorrow’s Experiments

In the world of science fiction, wondrous discoveries and promising experiments often turn into worldwide disasters. In the film The Quiet Earth, a scientist working for a company worked on a global energy grid. What happens next is that the experiment makes all the people, except for the scientist and two other persons, disappear without a trace. At the end of The Quiet Earth, the scientist tries to undo the effect of his experiment but the result leaves him stranded in another reality by himself.

quiet earth

In Kurt Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle, there is an artificial substance called ice-nine which is a type of water that is solid at room temperature. By the novel’s end, ice-nine is accidently released into the ocean which turns practically all the water in the world into solid ice and nearly all life on the planet ends a few days later.

Some scientific experiments and discoveries aren’t as world devastating as those found in The Quiet Earth and Cat’s Cradle, but they come close. In the book FlashForward, an experiment at CERN (European Organization For Nuclear Research) regarding Higgs boson particles unleashes a side effect wherein the entire world population briefly loses consciousness and experiences a few moments of the future. In the TV show based on the book, CERN isn’t responsible for the blackouts but rather a consortium of sinister scientists.

Then there are the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. In the books and films, dinosaurs are brought back to life through cloning and chaos erupts. The humans are unable to control the dinosaurs in the upcoming Jurassic Park theme park, and this results with the unhindered dinosaurs driving out humans from the park. In the sequel book The Lost World and the film Jurassic Park III dinosaurs are multiplying and beginning to move past their island boundaries. This was dramatically shown at the end of Jurassic Park III when several pteranodons are shown flying out of their island. If dinosaurs were to invade other territories, they would decimate local flora and threaten humanity. Basically our world could turn into a monster film where humanity is at war with giant creatures.

Scientific WMDs

Sometimes the plot lines in these tales has it that the military is secretly testing new weapons or devices with unexpected results. The urban legend about the Philadelphia Experiment details how supposedly during World War II the U.S. Navy performed an experiment onboard the U.S.S. Eldridge to render it invisible but harmed the sailors onboard. A film based on the incident also called The Philadelphia Experiment took the premise a step further and the experiment threatened the Earth when it created a vortex.

The military is also responsible for the catastrophes that ravage the world in the movie The Core. It turns out that after testing a seismic weapon by the U.S. military, the Earth’s core stops rotating, which begins to collapse the protective electromagnetic field  surrounding the world. As the heroes in The Core journey to the Earth’s center to explode nukes that will restart the core’s rotation (!), electromagnetic storms raze the world and structures like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Roman Coliseum are destroyed.

the core 2

This fear about the military experimenting with secret weapons and technology is influenced by their secretive nature and the fact that so little is known about them. Take the H.A.A.R.P. (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) project for example. Reportedly, its purpose is to study the ionosphere for applications in advanced communications and surveillance. A lot of conspiracy theorists are convinced that H.A.A.R.P. is being used to create natural disasters like superstorms and earthquakes. Some even claim that it was used a week before the recent U.S. presidential election to create Superstorm Sandy so that the president had an opportunity to appear presidential and win the election. H.A.A.R.P. has also been used in fiction like The X-Files and in several Marvel comics.

Mini Holes and Goo

Some worry that uncontrolled or careless science experiments could lead to the decimation of food, water and oil supplies (in the case of water, this was presented in Cat’s Cradle). But two dominant concerns have arisen about consequential scientific research.

grey gooIn addition to Jurassic Park, author Michael Crichton also penned a book called Prey which was also about technology run amok. In Prey’s case, it was nanotechnology which worries many scientists. Nanobots are recognized as the next step in medical technology. Tiny self-multiplying robots that are invisible to the naked eye can be injected into patients to treat them for cancers and other ailments more effectively than with conventional methods. The same nanotechnology also has other applications but all of this is in the research phase.

One drawback with nanobots is that people may lose control over the self-replicating machines. This would result in out-of-control and rapid propagation. The nanobots will then consume all matter to self-multiply which results in the grey goo phenomenon. In that case unhindered, runaway nanobots will turn everything on Earth into shapeless masses. Grey goo has also covered in other novels like Wil McCarthy’s Bloom and Greg Bear’s The Forge Of God.

Another developing concern has to do with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is the world’s largest particle accelerator. Many fear that the Collider can create mini black holes in the Earth as it collides protons together at near light speeds. Once the miniature black holes are created, they will grow and consume the Earth. However, this hasn’t happened and probably won’t. Scientists believe that any micro black holes will dissipate and actually these proton collisions take place naturally in our atmosphere and we’re still here.

 black hole 2

These micro black holes have plagued several science fiction stories and books like the novel Earth by David Brin is about an artificially created black hole that burrows itself in the planet’s interior which threatens the Earth. Other examples include Larry Niven’s The Hole Man and The Borderland Of Sol, Dan Simmons’ books Ilium and Olympos, and Martin Caidin’s Star Bright.

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It was also feared that the Collider would also create strangelets or strange matter. This subatomic matter is largely theoretical but if they were to be formed they would tear holes on our planet. The novel Impact by Douglas Preston has an alien machine that creates strangelets and the TV special End Day featured a scenario where a created strangelet destroyed the Earth.

The Best Sci-Fi Vacation Destinations

   

Alright you’re wondering where to go on your next vacation now that you have time off. Tired of the theme parks and big cities? Well here are some fantastic destinations and itineraries to consider. Note: Never mind isolated incidents in these places like out-of-control androids and rampaging dinosaurs. For the most part these are prime vacation spots to ease a tired mind and body or excite anyone seeking adventure.

Local Earthbound Adventures

Forget about subpar theme parks that charge you so much for so little. The Delos Corporation’s amusement park features authentic looking recreations of times past that allow visitors to interact in the most realistic environment possible. You can choose Medievalworld or Romanworld but Westworld (Westworld) is the most memorable spot to visit. For a mere $1,000 per day, you can indulge yourself in your most primal desires. Have a shootout (and win!), do some hard drinking and bar fighting or spend time with a lovely partner. Don’t let that recent glitch with the human-looking androids keep you from visiting. Coming soon is a new addition called Futureworld where you can visit Mars!

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park) is a must-visit theme park that blows away all the others. For anyone tired of fake-looking audio-animatronics, Jurassic Park has actual dinosaurs. Resurrected after millions of years of extinction thanks to genetic engineering, these gigantic beasts are a wonder to behold for the young and old. Visitors can view them in their natural habitats from the safety of perimeter fences and rugged jeep vehicles. Back at the park’s facility take a behind-the-scenes tour of how these reptilian giants were recreated. Or indulge yourself with top-notch amenities and make sure to visit the gift shop.

Sure the above parks promise and deliver a chance to interact with the past. So why not go go one step further and actually visit history? Explorers-at-heart can go anywhere in time with the Time Safari (A Sound Of Thunder). The most popular temporal destination is the prehistoric past where guides on marked above-ground trails help you hunt down a vicious t-rex just before its natural death. Please make sure not to leave anything behind not even footprints and don’t step on any butterflies.

Out Of This World

Love cruising? Desiring a grand trip through the stars away from Earth? Try the best of both by booking a voyage on an interstellar replica of the famous cruise ship the Titanic (Doctor Who “Voyage Of The Damned”). This upgraded Titanic is the ship for you. It’s posh, elegant and can warp between planets in no time. And what’s better is that these voyages are without Celine Dion songs and morons shouting “I’m the king of the world!”

So a Titanic replica may not be your thing. How about a magnificent, state-of-the-art space cruise ship that takes leisurely anti-g sails on alien oceans and has weird blue aliens that sing opera for entertainment? Call your cruise agent today to make arrangements to sail on the Fhloston Paradise  (The Fifth Element). And hey you may get a chance to help Korben Dallas save the universe!

If you’re going to go on a space cruise, why not do it in luxurious style? Close your eyes and relax. Ahh, gluttony, hedonism and instant robotic service at your fingertips are on board the Axiom (WALL-E). Make sure to run a few laps around the giant vessel’s jogging track or you’ll wind up looking like its permanent residents. Otherwise, enjoy the Axiom’s advanced resort and spa, take in the spectacular galactic sights and lend a hand to a certain beat-up little garbage robot who’s out to save humanity.

Let’s say a cruise doesn’t interest you. Earth bores you since you’ve seen and experienced all there is on our world. So rejuvenating yourself in a literal world of luxury is your true desire. There are plenty of worlds to choose from, these are just a small sampling:

Make sure to visit Naboo (Star Wars Episode I and II), a planet of royal luxury! Verdant plains, magnificent waterfalls, and majestic Mediterranean-like architecture are just some of the highlights in your trip to Naboo. Just don’t mind those pesky Trade Federation android armies or those underwater Gungans.

Imagine you’re a weary war refugee and need a resort planet with locals who will welcome you with open arms, food, drink and great chances to win fortunes. Look no further than the planet Carillon (Battlestar Galactica “Saga Of A Star World”). Just don’t mind the fact that the indigenous and insectoid Ovions only want to wine and dine you in order to fatten you up for their children’s menu.

Located in the Omicron Delta system, the Shore Leave Planet (Star Trek “Shore Leave”) has highly advanced facilities can literally create your ideal dreams just by scanning your thoughts. Want to get even with the school bully? Here’s your chance to find him and give him a beat down. You can also be a part of fairy tales, fight a samurai or spend time with the person of your dreams. Just be mindful of your thoughts.

Out of all the resort worlds like Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet and Argolis, Risa (Star Trek: The Next Generation “Captain’s Holiday”, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Let He Who Is Without Sin” and Enterprise “Two Days And Two Nights”) is the resort planet that everyone talks about and visits. From Captain Archer in the 22nd century to Captain Picard and the Deep Space Nine crew in the 24th century Risa is probably the most popular spot in the galaxt for Starfleet personel and others. Why would so many people visit Risa? Imagine a planet with a plethora of white-sand beaches, luxurious resorts, rich gardens, outdoor activities, nightclubs, perfectly controlled weather and unforgettable twin sunset views. It’s the best destination for spacefaring couples wanting to get away from it all. Plus, it’s the hottest spot in the galaxy for singles, just remember to have a Horga’hn statue ready.

Annette DeForrester

 

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movie Monsters

 

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When it comes to monsters, the science fiction genre has many worthy contributions. Whether they’re from outer space, developed in a lab or a byproduct of our amok science, sci-fi monsters have thrilled audiences for decades and will continue to do so. Here’s the ten best sci-fi monsters on film.

10. Giant Ants (Them!): Sure they look hokey by anyone’s standards, but that spooky noise the behemoth ants created is memorable and the film (about efforts to destroy deadly gigantic ants created by nuclear radiation) is one of the best examples of giant animal monster movies from the ’50s.

9. The Judas Breed (Mimic): Guillermo del Toro directed this underrated monster movie about a genetically engineered insect (a cross of a praying mantis and termite) that evolves to feed on humans in subways and alleys. The creepy insects do this by appearing somewhat humanoid in the dark to lure their prey. Vicious, deadly and hard to kill, the Breed are a classic.

8. Ymir (20 Million Miles To Earth): An alien egg is brought back by a space expedition to Venus and hatches in Italy. The hatchling soon grows to humongous proportions and goes on a rampage in Rome in this Ray Harryhausen masterpiece.

7. The Creatures from The Mist (The Mist): Yeah the ending was too bleak but the film’s extra-dimensional creatures that plague the trapped shoppers in the supermarket are truly terrifying. An army experiment breaks the seal between dimensions unleashing a mist filled with assorted deadly carnivorous life forms that spit out corrosive webbing, lay eggs on human hosts and are just outright nightmare inducing.

6. Godzilla (Godzilla, King of the Monsters): The ultimate statement of nuclear radiation being bad for the environment as atomic bombs awaken and mutate a gargantuan dinosaur that destroys Tokyo with its atomic breath and destructive might. The original is still the best and most dire film of this genre. Let’s not talk about that abomination put out in 1998 which starred that Ferris Bueller guy.

5. Brundlefly (The Fly): David Cronenberg’s AIDS allegory cleverly updates and amps up the horror in this remake of the ’50s film. Jeff Goldblum’s scientist Seth Brundle has his genes accidently spliced with a fly when he teleports himself, and the result is a hideous amalgamation of the two.

4. T-Rex and Raptors (Jurassic Park trilogy): Let the extinct stay extinct! That message comes across in this Steven Spielberg classic about cloned dinosaurs that break loose and eat people in a soon-to-be-opened island theme park. The effects were groundbreaking then and are still impressive as the T-Rex is shown to be the badass that it was and the velociraptors nearly upstage the tyrant king with their cunning and agility.

3. Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein): Boris Karloff’s quiet and eerie portrayal of the creature created out of dead human body parts by Dr. Frankenstein is still unsettling. Some thanks should go to Jack Pierce’s makeup and the atmospheric directing by James Whale in this classic statement of humanity’s folly in trying to control nature through science.

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2. The Thing (The Thing): John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of Howard Harwks’ film from the ’50s set a standard in moody paranoia and gross creature makeup effects. Not having a defined shape, the chameleon-like alien found by a doomed Antarctic research teams mimicked any life form it encountered. Including humans. But when the movie shows the Thing in-between transformations as its body disgustingly twists and contorts, it strained any viewer’s fortitude.

1. Alien Xenomorph (Alien films): The uber-space monster. Designed by H.R. Giger, this creature truly looked alien with its elongated skull, double mouth, exoskeletal structure and acidic blood. It’s a unique iconic look that few monsters have been able to match. Add to the mix, the fact that it can blend into its surroundings and it’s just plaine frightening.  Of course, what brought the movie houses down was the bloody debut of the serpentine infant alien that literally burst out of poor John Hurt’s chest.

Honorable Mentions: The Cloverfield Monster (Cloverfield),  the alien Predator (the Predator films), Hulk (the Hulk films), the Mutant Bear (Prophecy), the Bugs (Starship Troopers), the Mutant Baby (It’s Alive), Rhedosaurus (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms), and the Gill Man (Creature From The Black Lagoon).

José Soto