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Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan
Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, germ theory of disease, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, linked data, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence
It is a consequence of nuclear war that was somehow overlooked by the civil and military authorities of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China when they decided to accumulate well over 60,000 nuclear weapons. Although it's hard to be certain about such things, a case can be made that nuclear Winter played a constructive role (there were other causes, of course) in convincing the nuclear-armed nations, especially the Soviet Union, of the futility of nuclear war. Nuclear winter was first calculated and named in 1982/83 by a group of five scientists, to which I'm proud to belong. This team was given the acronym TTAPS (for Richard P. Turco, (even B. Toon, Thomas Ackerman, James Pollack, and myself). Of the five TTAPS scientists, two were planetary scientists, and the other three had published many papers in planetary science, The earliest intimation of nuclear winter came during that same Mariner 9 mission to Mars, when there was a global dust storm and we were unable to see the surface of the planet; the infrared spectrometer on the spacecraft found the high atmosphere to be warmer and the surface colder than they ought to have been.
The climatological history of our planetary neighbor, an otherwise Earthlike planet on which the surface became hot enough to melt tin or lead, is worth considering—especially by those who say that the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth will be self-correcting, that we don't really have to worry about it, or (you can see this in the publications of some groups that call themselves conservative) that the greenhouse effect itself is a "hoax." (3) Nuclear winter is the predicted darkening and cooling of the Earth—mainly from fine smoke particles injected into the atmosphere from the burning of cities and petroleum facilities—that is predicted to follow a global thermonuclear war. A vigorous scientific debate ensued on just how serious nuclear winter might be. The various opinions have now converged. All three-dimensional general circulation computer models predict that the global temperatures resulting from a worldwide thermonuclear war would be colder than those in the Pleistocene ice ages.
A volcanic eruption in Taupo, New Zealand, in the year 177 cooled the climate of the Mediterranean, half a world away, and dropped fine particles onto the Greenland ice cap. The explosion of Mt. Mazama in Oregon (which left the caldera now called Crater Lake) in 4803 B.C. had climatic consequences throughout the northern hemisphere. Studies of volcanic effects on the climate were on the investigative path that eventually led to the discovery of nuclear winter. They provide important tests of our use of computer models to predict future climate change. Volcanic particles injected into the upper air are also an additional cause of thinning of the ozone layer. So a large volcanic explosion in some unfrequented and obscure part of the world can alter the environment on a global scale. Both in their origins and in their effects, volcanos remind us of how vulnerable we are to minor burps and sneezes in the Earth's internal metabolism, and how important it is for us to understand how this subterranean heat engine works.
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas
accounting loophole / creative accounting, Climatic Research Unit, Deng Xiaoping, failed state, ice-free Arctic, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, price stability, South China Sea, supervolcano
In addition, temperature swings were astonishingly rapid-several degrees in the space of a decade as the climate warmed and then cooled again. At one point, about 70,000 years ago, a huge supervolcano eruption in Indonesia blew thousands of cubic kilometres of dust and sulphur into the atmosphere, cutting off the Sun's heat and causing global temperatures to plummet. Humans were nearly wiped out in the ensuing ‘nuclear’ winter: the entire global human population crashed to somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 individuals, a survival bottleneck which is still written in the genes of every human alive today. By implication, if six degrees of cooling was enough to nearly wipe us out in the past, might six degrees of warming have a similar effect in the future? That is the question this book seeks to answer. Back in the summer of 2005, as I began my journey into humanity's likely future, I felt like Dante at the gates of the Inferno-privileged to see what few others have laid eyes upon, but also deeply worried by the horrors that seemed to lie ahead.
Enormous fire-driven thunderstorm clouds-termed pyro-cumulonimbus-built up over the flames due to the intense convection and heat. No rain fell, but black hail pounded the ground 30 kilometres to the east. An F2-strength tornado touched down just to the west of the city's fringe. Smoke was thrown into the air with such explosive force that it penetrated the stratosphere and began to circulate the globe-cutting off some of the Sun's rays in a small-scale ‘nuclear winter’. When calm was restored, four people were dead and five hundred buildings reduced to ashes. Since politicians had refused to consider the future, the future had paid a visit to the politicians-in their own home town. Houston, we have a (hurricane) problem Houston, Texas: 5 August 2045, 9 p.m.: As the evening light fades, an oily swell has begun to rise in the Gulf of Mexico. A few fluffy clouds catch the dying rays of the Sun, but the sky looks almost too tranquil.
As the chemical engineer Gregory Ryskin writes, in a paper specifically addressing ‘kill mechanisms’ at the end-Permian, this methane ‘could destroy terrestrial life almost entirely’. A major oceanic methane eruption, he estimates, ‘would liberate energy equivalent to 108 megatonnes of TNT, around 10,000 times greater than the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons’. This global conflagration might even cause short-term cooling akin to a nuclear winter, before boosting global warming further with the CO2 produced by the combusted methane. (And any uncombusted methane would have an even more serious warming effect.) The methane killing agent may not have acted alone. As vegetation and animal carcasses rotted in the stagnant oceans, large quantities of hydrogen sulphide were building up in the depths. Evidence of this sulphurous ocean is still preserved in Permian rocks in eastern Greenland, where telltale pyrites are common amongst the black shales laid down at the time of the catastrophe.
The Techno-Human Condition by Braden R. Allenby, Daniel R. Sarewitz
airport security, augmented reality, carbon footprint, clean water, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, Credit Default Swap, decarbonisation, facts on the ground, friendly fire, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, land tenure, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, market fundamentalism, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, prediction markets, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, Whole Earth Catalog
But when A Long, Transhuman Trip 11 Vishnu, in the Bhagavad Gita, first spoke those words, many centuries earlier, it was as a true god; when Oppenheimer did, he was a mere mortal in awe not of what God or Nature had visited upon us, but what we had built for ourselves-even as that creation equaled the destructive powers that humans had always attributed to their gods. We have since gotten used to, even blase about, the possibility of nuclear winter, in the way a two-year-old gets used to a loaded .357 magnum lying on the floor within easy reach. We are as gods? No, for we have created the power but not the mind. And as technological evolution continues to outpace the grasp of human intent, we have little time to waste. These are the questions of our time, and they cannot be engaged though flights into tradition. The more we look at transhumanism as it is currently teed up by proponents and antagonists, the more it reveals itself as something that almost approaches its opposite - a flight into tradition barely disguised by the language of high technology.
Moreover, these particular perturbations are not isolated phenomena but just one way to perceive the evolving behavior of interconnected global systems. A population of some 7 billion humans, each seeking a better life and thirsting for technologies used and perceived at the shop-floor level of complexity, ensures that our overall role in global systems will increase unless there is some sort of population crash. And be careful if you wish for this under your breath, for such a catastrophe, whether from nuclear winter, terrorism and response, ecosystem collapse, or some other source, would create havoc among all systems, human, natural, and built. 68 Chapter 4 Another topical example is provided by the current "crisis in biodiversity," as human activity causes extinction to increase dramatically.4 On the one hand, ecologists may be justifiably concerned about whether key ecosystems-the depleted wetlands surrounding New Orleans, for example-are able to fulfill the functions upon which our societies depend (protecting a city from hurricane surges, in this case).
This is not technology as economic value, or as guarantor of national security; this is technology as salvation, even as seen now by some transhumanists and feared (as damnation) by those who reject the trans human vision. Looked at in another light, this is truly technology as Vishnu, "destroyer of worlds," for the world that existed before rails, with its small local businesses, parochial cultures, charming fragmentation of time, small-scale capitalism, and quaint worldview of Edenic pastoralism-that world was destroyed as surely and as effectively as ever Vishnu wrought, or nuclear winter threatened. 17 Level III Technology 79 And just like the dinosaurs, those who were there were unaware of what was truly bearing down on them, and could not have imagined the world that came after. Not unlike us. This constellation of social, economic, cultural, ethical, theological, institutional, and policy patterns associated with a core technology is by no means unique to railroads. Indeed, railroads represent only one of what economic historians call "long waves" of innovation, with accompanying cultural, institutional, and economic changes, developing around fundamental technologies.
The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman
23andMe, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, airport security, Albert Einstein, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, carbon footprint, clean water, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Google Earth, Google Glasses, haute cuisine, Internet of things, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, Masdar, megacity, microbiome, nuclear winter, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, skunkworks, Skype, stem cell, Stewart Brand, the High Line, theory of mind, urban planning, urban renewal, Whole Earth Catalog
When he does, a snowstorm opens up, with college students dashing between buildings, books clutched inside their parkas . . . WILD HEART, ANTHROPOCENE MIND Knee-deep in the blizzard of 1978, when wind-whipped sails of snow tacked across Lake Cayuga, and the streets looked like a toboggan run, I was a student in upstate New York. Despite the weather, classes met, and scientists with souls luminous as watch dials were talking about nuclear winter, the likely changes in Earth’s climate in the aftermath of a nuclear war: the sun white cotton in a perishable sky, dust clouds thickening over the Earth, plants forgetting how to green, summer beginning at twenty below zero, and then the seasons failing all living things. It seemed a possible scenario, since in Washington and Moscow, politicians were outdaring each other with playground bravado.
Only moments before, in geological time, we were speechless shadows on the savanna, foragers and hunters of small game. How had we become such a planetary threat? As the lectures and snow squalls ebbed, we students seemed small radiant forms in a vast white madness. A quarter of a century later, Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen (who discovered the hole in the ozone layer and first introduced the idea of nuclear winter) stepped onto the world stage again, arguing that we’ve become such powerful agents of planetary change that we need to rename the geological age in which we live. Elite scientists from many nations agreed, and a distinguished panel at the Geological Society of London (the official arbiter of the geologic time scale) began weighing the evidence and working to update the name of our epoch from its rocky designation, Holocene (“Recent Whole”), to one that recognizes, for the first time, our unparalleled dominion over the whole planet, Anthropocene—the Human Age.
., 299 geothermal warmth, 95 Germany, 72, 78, 83, 101, 124, 132, 298 solar panels in, 106–7 Gershenfeld, Neil, 202–3 gestures, 26–27 giraffes, 276 global consciousness, 18 global warming, 11, 38–42, 154, 307–8 agriculture and, 56 in Bangladesh, 51–53 and development of seas, 64–65 evidence of, 108 extreme weather and, 36–43, 314 fishermen and, 56–57 gardens affected by, 38–39 habitats rearranged by, 133–40 human rights and, 48 glowworms, 144 glucocorticoids, 283 golden eagles, 132 Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program, 123 golden toads, 162 Golding, William, 162 Google, 192, 210 Google Glass, 260–61 gophers, 115 gorgonian, 38 grains, 71 Grand Canyon, 126 granite, 58–59 GraphExeter, 184–85, 317 grasshoppers, 173–74 Grassy Key, 131 great apes, 202 great auks, 151 Great Depression, 108 Greece, 124 Green Apple concept car, 103 Green Belt Corridor, 124 greenhouses, 90 Greenland, 42 green mussels, 131 Green over Grey, 83 growing season, 42 Guam, 139, 157 Guam rail, 139 Guatemala, 88 Gulag Archipelago (Solzhenitsyn), 218 Gurdon, John, 150, 160 Gut Erlasee Solar Park, 106–7 Guthrie, Barton, 261 habitat loss, 154 Haiyan, Typhoon, 46 Hamilton, Clive, 314 Hansen, James, 314 Hansmeyer, Michael, 236 Harvard University, 235 Hastings, Battle of, 190 heart, 150, 239, 248, 249, 250–51, 281 heat, 41 heaters, 87 heat recycling, 95–108 Helm, Barbara, 114 Henri, Pascal, 84 herbs, 89 Hernandez, Isaias, 264–65 herons, 193–94 Heuchera plants, 80–81 High Line, 77 Hitler, Adolf, 273 hockey, 40 Holocene, 9 Homer, 262 Honda, 236 Hong Sun Hye, 102 horse chestnut trees, 153 Horse Island, 58 horses, 137–38, 140, 145–46 hostas, 125 Hudson River, 54–55 hulls, 91 human genome, 13 Human Genome Project, 270, 274, 282, 285, 289, 300 Human Microbiome Project, 289 human rights, global warming and, 48 humans: as eusocial, 288 geographic expansion of, 10 geography changed by, 11 history of, 71 orangutan genes shared by, 3 population growth of, 10 technological changes to bodies of, 13 tools used by, 7, 9 humans, environmental effects of: climate change, see global warming and possibility of nuclear winter, 8–9 hummingbirds, 126 hunter-gatherers, 71 Huntington’s disease, 271 Hurricane Irene, 57 Hurricane Katrina, 46 hurricanes, 31, 41, 43, 55 Hurricane Sandy, see Sandy, Hurricane hybrid cars, 100 Hyde Park, 142 hydroelectronic power, 100, 107 hydroponic gardening, 83, 89, 90 Icarus, 224 icebergs, 195–96, 197 Iceland, 77 ice packs, 41–42 iCub, 218–19 iGlasses, 261 igloos, 86 iguanas, 131 Ike Dike, 50 Iliad (Homer), 262 India, 88, 107, 132, 175 Indian mongoose, 132 Indonesia, 132, 313 induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS), 150–51, 160–63 industrial farming, 60 Industrial Revolution, 34, 106, 185–86, 232, 235, 267 Inheritors, The (Golding), 162 insects, 166 insulin pumps, 253 intelligence of plants, 205–7 International Union for Conservation of Nature, 313 Internet, 199–200, 235 Inuit, 86 invasive species, 132, 154 Iran, 147 Iraq War, 258 Ireland, 132 Irene, Hurricane, 57 irises, 125 iron fertilization, 53 Island of Dr.
Between the Strokes of Night by Charles Sheffield
That’s when I realized that there was another constraint to the kind of science fiction I wanted to write. The science ought to be consistent with what we believe to be true today. No swamps on Venus, no canals on Mars, no anti-gravity machines; but dinosaur extinction through meteorite impact, and braided rings around Saturn, and the Oort Cloud, and an Earth that might possibly be subject to global warming and nuclear winter. Now, in the past few years our view of the universe as a whole has changed radically. Fifteen years ago, a writer could be comfortable with one of three plausible choices: the universe was expanding, and the expansion would never slow down; or, second choice, the universe was expanding, but the expansion would proceed slower and slower, to produce a universe that was ultimately flat in a geometrical sense; or, the third alternative, the universe was expanding, but would eventually stop that expansion, reverse direction, and ultimately collapse back again in a “Big Crunch” fireball beyond which no information from our present universe could possibly survive.
Apart from the general location of the land masses, Earth bore no resemblance to the fabled planet described in the old records of Pentecost and the library records on the ship. And there was no chance that they would choose to live on Earth, even if it were to be colonized again in the near future. Pentecost was more beautiful in every way. They left the information service on all the time. It described a link between the old, fertile Earth of legend and the present wilderness. The post-nuclear winter had been the first cause of the trouble. It was far more influential as an agent of change than the Ice Age that now held Earth in a frozen grasp. Immediately after the thermonuclear explosions, temperatures below the thick clouds of radioactive dust dropped drastically. Plants and animals that fought for survival in the sunless gloom of the surface did so in a poisoned environment that forced rapid mutation or extinction.
The rodents grew in size to improve their heat retention, developed thick coats and hairy paws, and moved away from the equator to regions where there was no insect competition. Some of them were totally vegetarian, browsing on the sparse, chlorotic plant life that still grew in the dust-filtered twilight. They developed thick layers of blubber, for food storage and insulation. The other survivors became super-efficient predators, preying on their herbivorous relatives. As the nuclear winter slowly ended the insects moved north and south again, away from the tropics. But the mutated mice and woodchucks were ready for them. They had increased in size and ferocity, to become a match for any pre-civilization wolf; and now they wore thick coats of fur and protective fat that rendered impotent the fierce mandibles and poison stings. The insects were a new convenient source of protein.
Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Haight Ashbury, impulse control, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, life extension, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, packet switching, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Stanislav Petrov, Stewart Brand, too big to fail, uranium enrichment
Carl Sagan conjured an even worse environmental disaster: Sagan became concerned about the atmospheric effects of nuclear war in 1982, and it seems almost quaint today—as global warming looms as a pending threat—that a generation ago Americans worried that the world might get dangerously cold. But the threat of a nuclear winter never went away. And recent calculations suggest that the detonation of fifty atomic bombs in urban areas would produce enough black carbon smoke to cause another “Little Ice Age.” For the summation of Sagan’s work on the issue, see Carl Sagan and Richard Turco, A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (New York: Random House, 1990). For the latest findings on the global environmental impact of a nuclear war, see Alan Robock, “Nuclear Winter Is a Real and Present Danger,” Nature, vol. 473 (May 19, 2011). perhaps three quarters of a million people gathered in New York’s Central Park: The estimates of the crowd varied, from more than 550,000 to about 750,000.
He called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, offered a chilling description of what a single hydrogen bomb would do to New York City, and presented the latest scientific evidence on how nuclear detonations could harm the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere. Later that year the astronomer Carl Sagan conjured an even worse environmental disaster: nuclear winter. The vast amount of soot produced by burning cities would circle the earth after a nuclear exchange, block the sun, and precipitate a new ice age. Sagan warned that the effects of nuclear winter would make victory in a nuclear war impossible; a nation that launched a first strike would be committing suicide. On June 12, 1982, perhaps three quarters of a million people gathered in New York’s Central Park, demanding a different kind of freeze—a worldwide halt to the production of nuclear weapons.
Kennedy and the Politics of National Security,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 4, December 2003, 801–26. Quester, George H. “Through the Nuclear Strategic Looking Glass, or Reflections off the Window of Vulnerability,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 31, No. 4, 1987, 725–37. Ralph, William W. “Improvised Destruction: Arnold, LeMay, and the Firebombing of Japan,” War in History, Vol. 13, No. 4, 2006, 495–522. Robock, Alan. “Nuclear Winter Is a Real and Present Danger,” Nature, Vol. 473, May 19, 2011, 275–76. Roman, Peter J. “Ike’s Hair-Trigger: U.S. Nuclear Predelegation, 1953–60,” Security Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4, 121–64. Rosenberg, David Alan. “American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision,” Journal of American History, Vol. 66, No. 1, June 1979, 62–87. _____. “The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy 1945–1960,” International Security, Vol. 7, No. 4, 1983, 3–71. _____, and W.
anti-communist, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, crony capitalism, cuban missile crisis, failed state, joint-stock company, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, Robert Hanssen: Double agent, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Silicon Valley, Stanislav Petrov, Thomas L Friedman, uranium enrichment, Vladimir Vetrov: Farewell Dossier
Willens had fled the Soviet Union with his parents when he was eight years old and settled in Los Angeles, where he became a successful businessman. 8 See "Memorandum of Conversation," meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Dec. 22, 1984, Camp David. http://www.margaretthatcher.org. 9 Gorbachev, interview, June 30, 2006. 10 In the Dec. 23, 1983, issue of Science, two articles by teams of scientists argued that a nuclear war would have devastating environmental and ecological effects on the globe. In January 1984, a Vatican working group issued a report describing nuclear winter. "Nuclear Winter: A Warning," Pontificiae Academiae Scientiarvm Docvmenta, 11, Jan. 23-25, 1984. Among the scientists who participated was Yevgeny Velikhov, who became a key adviser to Gorbachev. 11 Thatcher interview with John Cole, BBC, Dec. 17, 1984. 12 See www.margaretthatcher.org. 13 Memorandum of conversation, Dec. 22, 1984. 14 Gorbachev's maternal grandfather had become a supporter of the Bolsheviks because the family was given the land they worked on after the revolution.
He turns pale and his hair falls out from the radiation. He sees sickness, disease and lawlessness. When Robards urges a pregnant woman who survived the blast to have hope, she retorts, "Hope for what? We knew the score, we knew all about bombs and fallout, we knew this could happen for forty years and no one was interested! Tell me about hope!" The film highlighted many of the fears of the day about nuclear war. It called attention to nuclear winter--that after a nuclear blast, the climate would change and snow would fall in summer. In his diary, Reagan wrote: Columbus Day. In the morning at Camp D. I ran the tape of the movie ABC is running on the air November 20. It's called "The Day After." It has Lawrence, Kansas wiped out in a nuclear war with Russia. It is powerfully done, all $7 mil. worth. It's very effective & left me greatly depressed.
But Gorbachev acknowledged it was difficult for him, back then, to imagine what that would be. Even as he unfolded the paper with all the squares and dots in front of Thatcher, he had no idea how to reduce the nuclear arsenals. He wondered, "How could all of it be stopped?" Thatcher wasn't impressed with the Gorbachev diagram, but remembered he carried off the presentation with "a touch of theatre." Gorbachev also warned of the dangers of a "nuclear winter" that would follow a war with atomic bombs.10 But Thatcher said, "I was not much moved by all this." She responded with a heartfelt lecture on the virtues of nuclear deterrence: the weapons, she said, had kept the peace. This was one of her core beliefs. Thatcher was "eloquent and emotional," Gorbachev remembered. Thatcher also knew Gorbachev might give her a message for Reagan. She listened closely when he spoke about Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.
Ant Farm and Other Desperate Situations by Simon Rich
I’m looking for a guy with really big muscles. You know, the kind of guy who can build me a fort and protect my children from forest beasts. SCRAWNY GUY: What forest beasts? We’re the last remaining species on the planet! WOMAN: I’m sorry. I’m just not attracted to you. SCRAWNY GUY: Listen, I have a unique genetic mutation that allows me to breathe radon gas like it was air! I’m the only person on earth who can survive the nuclear winter. If you don’t mate with me, all human life will die out! THE LAST MUSCULAR GUY ON EARTH: (coughing from the radon gas) Hey, baby. Nice ass. WOMAN: (Giggles.) SCRAWNY GUY: What’s happening? This is completely insane. THE LAST MUSCULAR GUY ON EARTH: (sweating) Let’s go to my fort, babe. (Cough.) I built it out of rocks, using my muscle arms. WOMAN: Whatever you say, lover. ———— when the “guess your weight” guy from the carnival got married —Darling, can I ask you a question?
Kill Your Friends by John Niven
Copies of Music Week are scattered all over the floor, all opened at the album charts where we’ve been scanning the producers’ names for ideas. Waters thinks hard. Or rather he makes the expression he imagines humans use when thinking—furrowed brow, gaze focused somewhere in the mid-distance—while whatever goes on in his mind goes on. I picture the inside of his head as a sleeping donkey, a 747 exploding on the tarmac, a nuclear winter. “How about…” I say sitting forward, picking up his Amex, scooping some powder towards me, pausing dramatically as Waters looks up hopefully, “…Guy Stevens?” I wait a few seconds while his brain turns, as swift as a container of near-set concrete tipping over. There’s the vaguest light somewhere in his eyes, the tiniest hint that something like a mind lives and functions in there. “You know,” I say helpfully, “he produced London Calling.
♦ I drive through Stratford and Leytonstone—cancerous high streets choked up with Pound Smasher! shops and Alabama Fried Chicken dives—and take the M25 South. I come along a flyover and, for a moment, the Saab is suspended so high in the air that it feels like you are in a video game. On my right, stretching back towards Docklands and the City, and on my left, oozing out into Kent, is the nuclear winter of east London—hundreds of square miles of power stations and freight yards, pylons, construction sites and chemical plants, motorway and flyover, ring road and tunnel, endless miles of red tail lights, yellow headlights and sodium street lights. The air outside the blue-tinted windows of the car is smoke, dust and dirt. Out in that air, in grids and blocks, the lights are coming on in houses.
Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism From Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda by John Mueller
airport security, Albert Einstein, Black Swan, Cass Sunstein, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, Doomsday Clock, energy security, F. W. de Klerk, failed state, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shock, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, side project, uranium enrichment, Yom Kippur War
Depending on the extent of the attack, these effects could also have widespread and longer-term consequences, potentially leading to famine, epidemics, and societal disruptions or even breakdown. In addition, some scientists have controversially argued that the smoke and debris lofted into the atmosphere by an attack with thousands of large bombs might well block the sun’s rays for a considerable period of time, leading to a “nuclear winter” that would have devastating long-term consequences not only for the bombed country but for the world at large, or at least for the northern hemisphere.14 All-Out Thermonuclear War To begin to approach a condition that can credibly justify applying such extreme characterizations as societal annihilation, a full-out attack with hundreds, probably thousands, of thermonuclear bombs would be required.
In this extreme scenario, the study calculates—or, to use its word, speculates—that something like 20 to 55 million would likely perish in the lowest set of estimates, and between 155 and 165 million in the highest. And there would also be, needless to say, catastrophic negative societal aftereffects.16 The study concluded as well that under either attack scenario, there could be considerable ecological impact—including, potentially, a nuclear winter effect—that could conceivably be as devastating in the long run as the attacks themselves.17 Hiroshima and Nagasaki An examination of the destruction wreaked by the atomic bombs that were exploded by airburst over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the last days of World War II is particularly useful for present purposes. These are, of course, the only cases in which nuclear explosions have taken place on populated targets, and there is a considerable amount of information about both the short-term and long-term effects of the bombings.
See also overstatement alarm, 162 all-out thermonuclear war, 8–9 atomic theater, 69–70 blast, 5 “certainty,” ix–x contamination, 6 deterring potential attack, 143 direct radiation and nuclear bomb, 4 disadvantages to acquiring, 103 economic and organizational cost, 110–112 ego trip, 143 electromagnetic pulse, 4 enhancing appeal, 143–149 existence of, and security, 251n.26 fallout, radiation and “dirty bombs,” 5–7 groundburst Hiroshima-size device, 10–11 Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 9–10 historical impact, 236–237 horizontal proliferation, 73 hostility, 25–26 indirect and longer-term effects, 8 influence on history, xii lacking technological imperative, 104–105 military attacks, 147 military value, 108–110 overstatement, 27–28 overstating importance of existence, 23 proliferation, 237 sanctions, 145–147 spread within and to states, xii–xiii status effects, 147–149 status symbol, 105–108 taboo, 61–63 thermal pulse of heat and light, 5 threats, 144–145 United States and USSR freezing programs, 79 vertical proliferation, 73, 76 weapons designers, 167 weapons of mass destruction (WMD), 11–13 WMD and battlefield messiness, 14–15 nuclear weapons laboratories, 266–267n.43 nuclear weapon state, definition, 148–149 nuclear winter, nuclear attack, 8 Obama, President B., potential atomic bomb, x–xi obsession, ix, xiii, 237, 237 Office of Technology Assessment, sarin, 12 oil shocks, American politics and security, 139–140 Oklahoma City, truck bomb, 19 Olympics, China’s quest to host, 108 Omar, Mullah, Taliban leader, 211 On the Beach, nuclear fears, 57 Oppenheimer, J. Robert atomic bomb, 162 exaggeration of bomb capacity, 17–18 politically productive terror, 26 priestly exaggerations, 243n.2 world government, 74 “oppositional nationalist,” Hymans, 261n.2 Oren, Michael, 262n.20, 263n.27, 264n.24 organizational costs, nuclear weapons, 110–112 overstatement consequences of, 27–28 existence of nuclear weapons, 23 explanations for, 25–27 physical effects, 17–19 social and political effects, 19–22 Pakistan apprehensions about chaos, 108 conversations with scientists in, 203–205 criticism of Musharraf’s regime, 260n.24 economics of nuclear weapons, 111 fissile material, 169 nuclear arsenal and United States, 145 opposition of Taliban regime after 9/11, 225 troubles with Taliban, 167 United States and, 164 Paris, image of destruction, 24 partial test ban treaty of 1963, arms race, 75–77 Pasdaran, sanctions, 146 Payne, Keith, threat to use nuclear weapons, 109 “peacetime standards,” radiation, 6 Pearl Harbor, 193, 247n.23, 269–270n.23 Perle, Richard, 261n.4 physical effects, overstating, 17–19 plutonium dangers and difficulties, 168 implosion trigger on hydrogen bomb, 250n.17 Mahmood in Pakistan, 205 sensitivity, 174 terrorists, 265n.20, 269n.16 Podheretz, Norman, 261n.4 points of no return, cascades of proliferation, 91 policing wars, 257n.5 political advantage, existential bombast, 232 politicization, terror, 26 Pollack, Kenneth, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, 130 poor man’s nuclear weapon, “dirty bombs,” 13 Porter, Patrick, 224–225, 226 port security, Los Angeles/Long Beach, 141 postwar world, international relations, 52 Potsdam Declaration, 249n.4 Potter, William, points of no return, 20–21, 94–95 Powell, General Colin, nuclear options, 63 predictions, bombing, 195 probability, terrorists overcoming barriers, 187–189 proliferation cascadology, 89–95 China, 95–97 deterring war, 117–118 domination, 97–99 espy benefit, 257n.5 nuclear weapons, 237 pace, 103 reducing effective threat, 116–117 solving specific security problems, 118 value in, 115–118 proliferation fixation comparing costs, 141–142 foreign policy and economic costs, 137–141 human costs, 130–137 Iraq, 130–135 North Korea, 135–137 propaganda, stigmatizing Germans, 245n.26 propaganda video, Gadahn, 219 publications, 223, 244–245n.19 Putin, Vladimir, role in Russia, 137 Qaddafi, Colonel Muammar, Libya, 124–126, 154 race to demobilize, post-cold war, 84–85 radiation acceptable levels, 241–242n.10 background levels, 6–7 coping mechanisms of body, 7 Department of Homeland Security, 196–197 direct, and neutron bomb, 4 education about effects, 195–196 fear and anxiety, 196 “hormesis” hypothesis, 242n.12 nuclear explosions, 18 nuclear weapons, 5–7 Reagan, President Ronald building up U.S. military forces, 59–60 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement, 80 neutron bomb, 81 Soviet joining family of nations, 51 terrorists and Libya, 125 Reiss, Mitchell, 117, 147, 257n.18 Revolutionary Guards, sanctions, 146 rhetoric, xii, 231 rhetoric of alarm atomic bomb and World War II, 55–56 nuclear fear declining again, 60–61 nuclear fear during classic cold war, 56–57 nuclear fear reviving in early 1980s, 58–60 nuclear fear subsiding in 1960s and 1970s, 57–58 Rhodes, Richard, 80, 252n.37 Rice, Condoleezza, 131, 230 Richardson, Louise, loose-nuke stories, 208, 209, 213 Ridge, Tom, nuclear worry, 163 risk, acceptable, of catastrophic events, 197–198 rogue state, 86, 95–97, 237 Rosecrance, Richard, nuclear dispersion, 91, 251n.26 Rosenberg, Julius and Ethel, atomic traitors, 49 Rove, Karl, weapons of mass destruction, 131 Rush–Bagot Agreement, formal arms control, 83 Russia fissile material, 169–170 fixation of Putin, 137 gas fatalities, 244n.16 “naughty child” effect, 108 North Korea support, 135, 136 safety devices, nuclear weapons, 100 Sageman, Marc, 220–221, 229 SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) of 1972, 77–78 SALT II of 1979, arms race, 78–79 “Samson Option,” Israel, 110 sanctions appeal of nuclear weapons, 145–147 Iraq, 134, 145, 147 North Korea, 136 sanitation, nuclear attack, 8 sarin, 12, 228 scaremongers, weapons laboratories, 266–267n.43 scenario, atomic terrorist’s task in most likely, 185 Schell, Jonathan, “The Fate of the Earth,” 60, 61 Schelling, Thomas deterrence by Iran, 154–155 energy production, 139 nuclear weapons, 61–62 Scheuer, Michael, 202, 209, 214, 230, 272n.27 Schultz, George, terrorists and Libya, 125 secrets, 49–50, 237 security American politics, 139–140 balance with accident prevention, 85 existence of nuclear weapons, 251n.26 homeland, and weapons of mass destruction, 140 Israeli anxieties about, 150–151 port, 140–141 security problems, solving, 118 September 11, 2001, plot envisioning as type of Hiroshima, 200–202 9/11 Commission, 161 terrorism probability, 192–193 World Trade Center, 22 Silberman–Robb Commission, 111–112 Simon, Steven, 20, 21 Six-Day War, nuclear threat, 48 size, al-Qaeda’s capacity, 220–221 sky-is-still-falling profession, Arkin, 92 Slaughter, Anne-Marie, 258n.1 sleep disorders, atomic obsession, xi, xiii, 239 sleeper cells, al-Qaeda, 222, 275–276n.37 smuggling, atomic devices, 177 society, 20, 22 Solingen, Etel, 113, 119–120, 122, 124, 125, 254n.8 South Africa, 110, 121–122, 138, 171 South Korea, 124, 138 Soviet-Chinese confrontation, 48, 250n.14 Soviet power, external expansion, 246n.15 Soviet Union Afghanistan, 109 Afghanistan invasion, 78–79 assumptions for Western Europe invasion, 35–36 back down in Cuban missile crisis, 248n.32 “cautious opportunism,” 246n.15 Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, 7 danger for United States, 52 deterrence of United States and, 65–66 end of cold war, 50–51 end of expansionary threat, 250n.21 expansionary ideology, 50–51 first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, 77–78 hot line between capitals with U.S., 76–77 ideology, 33–35 Japanese and, intervention, 45–46 lessons of Korean War, 38 postwar contentment, 33–35 potential invasion of Europe, 35–38 supplies by United States, 37 triple-warhead missiles, 59 world war deterrence, 32 stability, proliferation, 99 Stalin, Joseph, 36, 47, 49–50 “Star Wars,” United States and USSR, 79 status appeal of nuclear weapons, 147–149 value of nuclear weapons as, 105–108, 237 Stenersen, Anne, 207, 214 sting operation, nuclear, 194 stolen bombs, loose nukes, 165–168 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), 79–80, 253n.12 success, modest, of antiproliferation, 126–127 Sudan, death and destruction, 271n.10 suicide, Japanese civilians, 45 suicide pills, 85–86, 253n.26 suitcase bomb Fox Television’s 24 series, 167 possibility, 162 Soviet-made, 272n.35 stolen or illicit purchase, 165 Sunstein, Cass, case for fear, 197–198 “Superbomb,” nuclear weapon, 206 supermissile MX, Strategic Defense Initiative, 81 “supreme priority,” 129, 155–158 taboo, aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 61–63 Taiwan, 118, 124, 138 Taiwan Straits crises, nuclear threat, 48 Takeyh, Ray, invasion of Iran, 156 Taliban hosts to al-Qaeda, 224 leader Omar in Afghanistan, 211 opposition by Pakistan after 9/11, 225 Pakistan’s trouble with, 167 retaking Afghanistan and seizing power, 265n.12 Taubman, William, world war and Soviets, 32 Tauscher, Rep.
The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling
Seventy-four thousand years, Freddy.” Freddy looked down and slowly quoted from his notepad. “ ‘The massive eruption of a supervolcano would be a planetary catastrophe. It would create years of freezing temperatures as volcanic dust and ash obscured the warmth of the sun. The sky will darken, black rain will fall, and the Earth will be plunged into the equivalent of a nuclear winter.’ ” Guillermo’s face went sour. “Okay, that is total baloney. ‘Nuclear winter,’ that sounds extremely corny to me.” “That’s because this source material is eighty years old. Geologists know a whole lot about supervolcanoes. Nobody else in the world wants to think about supervolcanoes.” Buffy was losing her temper. “But this is so totally unbelievable! The sky already darkened! The black rain already fell on us! We already have a climate crisis, we have one going on right now!
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, nuclear winter, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route
The enormous volumes of dust and ash injected into the atmosphere reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, causing a decades-long nuclear winter, the collapse of agriculture, and global famine. Or the event was entirely beyond human control. A rocky asteroid, only around a mile across, slammed into the Earth and fatally changed atmospheric conditions. People within a few hundred kilometers of ground zero were dispatched in an instant by the blast wave of intense heat and pressure, and from that point on most of the rest of humanity was living on borrowed time. It didn’t really matter which nation was struck: the rock and dust hurled up high into the atmosphere—as well as the smoke produced by widespread fires ignited by the heat blast—dispersed on the winds to smother the entire planet. As in a nuclear winter, global temperatures dropped enough to cause worldwide crop failures and massive famine.
Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky
Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, British Empire, capital controls, corporate governance, corporate personhood, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, facts on the ground, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, invisible hand, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, nuclear winter, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, precariat, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, Stanislav Petrov, structural adjustment programs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, trade route, union organizing, uranium enrichment, wage slave, WikiLeaks, working-age population
Business interests don’t want it, and they’re overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one. So that’s what the future historian—if there is one—would see. He might also read today’s scientific journals. Just about every one you open has a more dire prediction than the last. The other issue is nuclear war. It’s been known for a long time that if there were to be a first strike by a major power, even with no retaliation, it would probably destroy civilization just because of the nuclear-winter consequences that would follow. You can read about it in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; it’s well understood. So the danger has always been a lot worse than we thought it was. We’ve recently passed the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a very close call, and not the only time either. In some ways, however, the worst aspect of these grim events is that their lessons haven’t been learned.
Both sides are practicing rapid mobilization and redeployment of forces to the Russia-NATO border, and “both believe a war is no longer unthinkable.”21 If that is so, both sides are beyond insanity, since a war might well destroy everything. It has been recognized for decades that a first strike by a major power might destroy the attacker, even without retaliation, simply from the effects of nuclear winter. But that is today’s world. And not just today’s—that is what we have been living with for seventy years. The reasoning throughout is remarkable. As we have seen, security for the population is typically not a leading concern of policymakers. That has been true from the earliest days of the nuclear age, when in the centers of policy formation there were no efforts—apparently not even expressed thoughts—to eliminate the one serious potential threat to the United States, as might have been possible.
Build a better mousetrap, knowledge worker, linear programming, nuclear winter, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, sorting algorithm, Superbowl ad, the scientific method, type inference, unpaid internship
A new corps of Internet consultants sprung up, hiring 22-year old college grads who knew how to use FrontPage. They earned about $40 an hour, but could be billed out at $250 an hour. The article purported to explain that if you just pay enough, offer well-lit offices, and gave people massages, you shouldn’t have any problem hiring. Shortly after I wrote that article, though, the first Internet bubble burst, and we had something of a nuclear winter in the tech industry. Tons of programmers, developers, web designers, and producers were dumped unceremoniously on the street, many of whom didn’t realize that $60,000 was not really a realistic starting salary for college graduates who had majored in 1. Normally I would put the URL here so you could look it up. But that old article I wrote in my youth is just ridiculous, so, while it’s still on the Web, you’ll have to find it for yourself, which I don’t recommend.
Red November: Inside the Secret U.S.-Soviet Submarine War by W. Craig Reed
Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, cable laying ship, centre right, cuban missile crisis, en.wikipedia.org, nuclear winter, operation paperclip, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, upwardly mobile
—CAPTAIN FIRST RANK, RETIRED, ALEKSEI DUBIVKO ALTHOUGH PRESIDENT KENNEDY AND DEFENSE SECRETARY McNamara retained suspicions that the four Foxtrot submarines that converged on Cuba in October 1962 might be carrying nuclear torpedoes, the truth was not revealed to the world until 1995, more than three years after the Soviet Union collapsed. Not until then did we learn that the Soviets shipped 161 nuclear warheads to Cuba. Ninety of those were tactical, which would have killed tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers had Kennedy given the order to invade. I spent my entire adulthood believing that President Kennedy saved the world from nuclear winter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Certainly, he and the members of ExComm were instrumental in forcing Khrushchev to back down at a crucial time during the brewing conflict, but the other heroes of this undeclared war were the commanders of the four Foxtrot submarines. Each had the opportunity, when faced with disaster, to pull the trigger and start a war. Each could have taken a dozen or more American ships with them into the smoldering center of a mushroom cloud, and each could have propelled the world toward a devastating October that would have changed the course of human history.
Each could have taken a dozen or more American ships with them into the smoldering center of a mushroom cloud, and each could have propelled the world toward a devastating October that would have changed the course of human history. However, each made the right decision in the end, and those of us who survived that time owe them our gratitude and perhaps our lives. The events that transpired in the fall of 1962 brought the world to the edge of nuclear winter not once, but at least a half-dozen times. The Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps better stated the Cuban Submarine Crisis, spurred the creation of the Moscow–Washington hotline to ensure immediate, direct communications between the superpowers in the event of future potential conflicts. Although critics claim that Kennedy’s actions prior to the crisis—particularly those related to the Bay of Pigs incident—likely caused the escalation in the first place, most agree that the outcome propelled the United States to a more confident stance as an international superpower.
Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens
anti-communist, British Empire, colonial rule, deindustrialization, Etonian, hiring and firing, land reform, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, nuclear winter, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, sensible shoes
While those who drown a truth’s empiric part In dithyramb or dogma turn frenetic; — Than whom no writer could be less poetic He left this lesson for all verse, all art. ROBERT CONQUEST: ‘GEORGE ORWELL’ (1969) The stanzas above were written in a glacial time, and refer back to a period of almost polar frigidity — the ‘midnight of the century’ reviewed through the optic of the Cold War, with the additional prospect of a ‘nuclear winter’ never remote enough to be dismissed. Yet the chilliness of the opening is at once redeemed by a friendly gleam, and this gleam is renewed through the subsequent glow of friendship until it suffuses the closing lines with something almost like fire. It’s an open question as to whether or not integrity and honesty are cold or hot virtues, and England can be a dank place in which to locate the question.
A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright
Albert Einstein, Atahualpa, Bretton Woods, British Empire, clean water, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, invention of agriculture, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, nuclear winter, out of africa, Parkinson's law, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Malthus, urban sprawl
Ronald Wright, Stolen Continents: Conquest and Resistance In the Americas (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), p. 5. 7. American Cold Warriors of the last century used to threaten to “bomb the Soviets back into the Stone Age.” Whether the Russians uttered the same threat, I don’t know. But it was certainly a credible one. Even if a nuclear “exchange” (as the euphemism went) failed to extinguish all higher forms of life, it would have ended civilization worldwide. No crops worth eating would grow in a nuclear winter. 8. See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992). 9. Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1711; Thomas Henry Huxley, On Elementary Instruction in Physiology, 1877. 10. Quoted in Robert J. Wenke, Patterns in Prehistory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 79. 11. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 2, scene 2. 12. Ibid., As You Like It, act 4, scene 1. 13.
asset allocation, Bernie Madoff, compound rate of return, diversification, financial independence, full employment, German hyperinflation, index fund, nuclear winter, passive income, payday loans, risk tolerance, Vanguard fund, yield curve
As we’ll discuss in Chapter 19, the tax deferral and any company match contributions make these plans attractive even with subpar fund choices and high fees. 3. What if Vanguard gets nuked? OK, let’s be clear. If the world had ended on December 21, 2012 as the Mayan Calendar suggested it might, everything you had invested in Vanguard (or elsewhere) would have gone up in smoke. But, of course, that didn’t happen. If a giant meteor slams into Earth setting the world on fire followed by a nuclear winter, your investments are toast. If space aliens arrive and enslave us all—unless you bought human feedlot futures—it’s gonna mess up your portfolio. But unlikely and beyond our control, not to mention the scope of this book. That said, lesser disasters can and do happen. Vanguard is based in Malvern, Pennsylvania. What if, God forbid, Malvern is nuked in a terrorist attack? What about a cyber attack?
Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand
Albert Einstein, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, Danny Hillis, Eratosthenes, Extropian, fault tolerance, Internet Archive, Jaron Lanier, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, life extension, nuclear winter, pensions crisis, phenotype, Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog
He would use an unreliable but accurate timer (solar alignment) to adjust an inaccurate but reliable timer (pendulum), creating a phase-locked loop. A Huygens (swinging) pendulum or torsional (rotating) pendulum would keep the Clock close to accurate, and then a pulse of focused sunlight at exact solar noon would adjust the Clock precisely on any day there was sun. In the event of prolonged cloudiness from volcanic eruptions, nuclear winters, or large meteor impacts, the Clock’s pendulum could keep close-enough time for a few years until the Sun came out again. A second major innovation emerged from analyzing the calculation options. Electronic calculation (as in digital clocks and watches) would be hopelessly invisible and difficult to maintain. The gears used universally in mechanical clocks wear down over time and offer only approximately correct ratios.
Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss by Frances Stroh
The eyes were open and black, the body the size of a small cat. The fur rippled rhythmically, and I wondered if it might still be alive, but Caitlin’s sweater was rippling, too. Everything with texture was alive. I imagined thousands of rats all around us, rambling through sewer pipes or thrashing their tails inside little holes in the ground. I’d read a book once about the apocalypse that said only rats and cockroaches would survive a nuclear winter. They’d proliferate and take over the earth for millions of years until new species evolved. Even now, I thought I could feel things crawling on me. I scratched my arms up and down until I’d begun to produce welts. A door slammed from somewhere inside the plant, and the sound ricocheted off the buildings in the silence. We all looked at one another. Had it been the wind? Anything could happen in here, and no one outside would know.
airport security, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, Bretton Woods, BRICs, capital controls, clean water, Deng Xiaoping, Doha Development Round, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, global rebalancing, global supply chain, income inequality, informal economy, Julian Assange, labour mobility, Martin Wolf, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Nixon shock, nuclear winter, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, smart grid, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, Stuxnet, trade route, uranium enrichment, Washington Consensus, WikiLeaks, Yom Kippur War
VICTORY AND FRAGMENTATION After more than four decades of confrontation and bloody proxy wars across the developing world, the collapse of European and Soviet communism and the end of the Cold War appeared to usher in an era of American dominance. U.S. politicians championed a new form of manifest destiny, one in which an exceptional, ascendant superpower would inspire followers on every continent to remake the world in America’s image. Russia, heart of the Soviet empire, was invited to expand the G7 to a G8 to ensure that Moscow did not lurch back toward communism or turn to military rule. The Wall fell, and fears of nuclear winter gave way to a promising spring. But Cold War victory restored neither international harmony nor American preeminence. Instead, it simply speeded the rise of a new generation of increasingly self-confident emerging-market countries, each with its own values and vulnerabilities. From the ashes of the Soviet Union itself came fifteen new states. Some (the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Georgia) turned toward Europe.
Airbnb, business intelligence, cloud computing, financial independence, Google Glasses, hiring and firing, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, move fast and break things, new economy, nuclear winter, Peter Thiel, Productivity paradox, random walk, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs
I felt that Bill was telling me, although I was walking around trying to get the deal done, that I was already dead and that I did not know it. It was a very hard thing for him to say and only the best of friends will muster the courage to break news that horrible. It was an even harder thing for me to hear. He told me so that I could emotionally prepare myself and financially prepare the company for the inevitable funeral. The odds of landing a company-saving deal during the technology industry’s nuclear winter were close to nil. Chances were, I was dead. I never built that contingency plan. Through the seemingly impossible Loudcloud series C and IPO processes, I learned one important lesson: Startup CEOs should not play the odds. When you are building a company, you must believe there is an answer and you cannot pay attention to your odds of finding it. You just have to find it. It matters not whether your chances are nine in ten or one in a thousand; your task is the same.
For the Love of Money: A Memoir by Sam Polk
I’d sneak out three or four times a day to smoke cigarettes in the park. While my performance was weak, there were small victories. I didn’t miss another day of work. I worked out every single morning, ate salads instead of burgers. I talked to Linda or went to a meeting almost every day. Amidst the devastation of my life, I collected these small achievements. They felt important, somehow—the first green shoots after a nuclear winter. I was, for once, more focused on taking care of myself than on fitting in or impressing people. But it was more than that. Over the past few years, every story I’d told about myself—Sam the wrestler, Sam the Columbia student, Sam the Internet entrepreneur—had been smashed. Now, stripped of the one person I loved, my Wall Street story falling apart, I began to understand that those narratives didn’t define me.
Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever
“The Russians were coming!” yelled Forrestal until the police came and took him away. Truman fired Forrestal and Forrestal killed himself, jumping from his sixteenth-floor room at Bethesda Naval Hospital. What had Forrestal known? What if he had information that had been denied to the public? If the Russians weren’t about to land, they were armed to begin a catastrophic war that would lead to the end of the world. Nuclear winter was unavoidable. McCarthy’s license to attack, maim, and hurt the innocent began a politics of reaction to threats, which is very much a feature of our modern world. Since September 11, 2001, we have been living with the same kind of fear that characterized the 1950s. They were fighting a war on the terror of communism; we are fighting a war on the terror of jihad. “Political repression and threats to liberty neither began nor ended with Joseph McCarthy,” Haynes Johnson writes.
The end of history and the last man by Francis Fukuyama
affirmative action, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, centre right, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, European colonialism, F. W. de Klerk, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, Gini coefficient, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, kremlinology, labour mobility, land reform, Mikhail Gorbachev, nuclear winter, open economy, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue, strikebreaker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
O u r deepest thinkers have concluded that there is no such thing as History—that is, a mean ingful o r d e r to the broad sweep of h u m a n events. O u r own ex perience has taught us, seemingly, that the f u t u r e is m o r e likely than not to contain new and unimagined evils, f r o m fanatical 4 AN OLD QUESTION ASKED ANEW dictatorships and bloody genocides to the banalization of life t h r o u g h m o d e r n consumerism, and that unprecedented disasters await us f r o m nuclear winter to global warming. T h e pessimism of the twentieth century stands in sharp con trast to the optimism of the previous one. T h o u g h Europe began the nineteenth century convulsed by w a r and revolution, it was by and large a century o f peace and unprecedented increases in material well-being. T h e r e w e r e two broad grounds f o r optimism. T h e first was the belief that m o d e r n science would improve hu man life by conquering disease and poverty.
But is it possible to destroy m o d e r n natural science itself, to r e lease us f r o m the grip that the scientific method has held over o u r lives, and r e t u r n mankind as a whole permanently to a p r e scientific level o f civilization? 4 No Barbarians at the Gates 87 Let us take the case o f a global w a r involving weapons o f mass destruction. Since Hiroshima we have envisioned this as a nuclear war, but it could now be the result of some new and terrible biological o r chemical agent. Assuming that such a w a r does not trigger nuclear winter o r some o t h e r natural process that makes the earth completely uninhabitable by man, we must assume that the conflict will destroy much of the population, power, and wealth of the belligerents, and perhaps of their major allies, with devastating consequences for neutral onlookers as well. T h e r e may be major environmental consequences that would make the military catastrophe merge with an ecological one.
The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins
agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, complexity theory, delayed gratification, double helix, Drosophila, Haight Ashbury, invention of writing, Louis Pasteur, nuclear winter, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, Steven Pinker, the High Line, urban sprawl
The noise of the impact, thundering round the planet at a thousand kilometres per hour, probably deafened every living creature not burned by the blast, suffocated by the wind-shock, drowned by the 150-metre tsunami that raced around the literally boiling sea, or pulverised by an earthquake a thousand times more violent than the largest ever dealt by the San Andreas fault. And that was just the immediate cataclysm. Then there was the aftermath -- the global forest fires, the smoke and dust and ash which blotted out the sun in a two-year nuclear winter that lolled off most the plants and stopped dead the world's food chains. No wonder all the dinosaurs, with the notable exception of the birds, perished -- and not just the dinosaurs, but about half of all other species too, particularly the marine ones.* The wonder is that any life at all survives these cataclysmic visitations. By the way, the one that ended the Cretaceous and the dinosaurs is not the biggest -- that honour falls to the mass extinction that marks the end of the Permian, about a quarter of a billion years ago, in which some 95 per cent of all species went extinct.
Evidently, since we exist, our ancestors survived the Permian extinction, and later the Cretaceous extinction. Both catastrophes, and the others that have also occurred, must have been extremely unpleasant for them, and they survived by the skin of their teeth, possibly deaf and blind but just capable of reproducing, otherwise we wouldn't be here. Perhaps they were hibernating at the time, and didn't wake up until after the nuclear winter that is thought to follow such catastrophes. And then, in the fullness of evolutionary time, they reaped the benefits. In the case of the Cretaceous survivors, there were now no dinosaurs to eat them, no dinosaurs to compete with them. You might think there was a down side: no dinosaurs for them to eat. But few mammals were large enough, and few dinosaurs small enough, to make that much of a loss.
Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk by Satyajit Das
affirmative action, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Andy Kessler, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Basel III, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, carried interest, Celtic Tiger, clean water, cognitive dissonance, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, debt deflation, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, discrete time, diversification, diversified portfolio, Doomsday Clock, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial independence, financial innovation, fixed income, full employment, global reserve currency, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, happiness index / gross national happiness, haute cuisine, high net worth, Hyman Minsky, index fund, interest rate swap, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, Kevin Kelly, labour market flexibility, laissez-faire capitalism, load shedding, locking in a profit, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, margin call, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Martin Wolf, merger arbitrage, Mikhail Gorbachev, Milgram experiment, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Network effects, new economy, Nick Leeson, Nixon shock, Northern Rock, nuclear winter, oil shock, Own Your Own Home, pets.com, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, price stability, profit maximization, quantitative easing, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, regulatory arbitrage, rent control, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, savings glut, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Slavoj Žižek, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, the market place, the medium is the message, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Nature of the Firm, The Predators' Ball, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, value at risk, Yogi Berra, zero-coupon bond
Some 65 million years ago, the impact of an asteroid in Mexico, equivalent to an explosion of 100 million tons of TNT, created the Chicxulub crater, 120 miles (180 kilometers) in diameter. 300,000 years later (an eye blink in geological time), a second much larger celestial object, named Shiva, the Indian God of destruction, hit India with a force estimated at 100 times that of the Chicxulub asteroid, creating a 310-mile (500-kilometre) crater. Debris ejected into the atmosphere shut out the sun, creating a nuclear winter that prevented photosynthesis by plants, slowly starving most life and leading to the extinction of millions of species, including dinosaurs. Something similar had happened to the global economy. A lack of money slowly caused normal economic activity to stop. Money was the oil lubricating the economy. Now the oil was leaking out via a large crack, and the moving parts were seizing up. In Indian mythology, Brahma is the creator of the world.
See Jack Welch Never Never, 67 new austerity, 357 New Century Financial, 195, 202 New Scientist, 363 New York as a financial center, 78-79 FiDi (Financial District), 80 New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), 80 New York Times, The, 120, 196 Ayn Rand, 297 Michael Milken, 152 newspapers, 89-91 Nicholson, Eddy, 134 Nietszche, Frederich, 300 NINJA borrowers, 70 Nintendo DS, 40 NIVA (no income verified assets) loans, 182 Nixon, Richard M., 31, 104, 342 Nobel prize in Economics, 104 Black and Scholes, 122 nolo contendere (no contest), 150 normal distributions, 126 Norris, Stephen, 154 North Korea, 24 Northern Rock, 200, 205 Norway, 221 Noyer, Christian, 228 nuclear war, 34 nuclear winter, 339 O O’Neal, Stan, 178, 201, 291, 315, 319, 330 O’Neill, Eugene, 46 O’Neill, Jim, 90 O’Rourke, P.J., 293 Obama, Barack, 215, 325, 342, 358, 362 objective truths, 130 objects d’art, 176 Och, Daniel, 318 Och-Ziff Capital Management, 318 Oddsson, David, 275, 279 off-balance sheets, 190, 288 off-market interest, 224 oil, 57 banks, 57 petro-dollars, 82 rise in prices, 334, 337-338 Old Lane Partners, 319 Olso, Mancur, 294 Once in a Lifetime, 46 One Market, One God, 129 one-touch, 211 Onex Group, 156 Onion, The, 341, 361 opacity, 61 Oppenheimer, Robert, 339 options, 182, 209 Orange County, collapse of, 283 Organisation, The, 296 originate and hide, 270 originate-to-distribute models, 68 Orman, Suze, 92-93 Orwell, George, 365 Orzag, Peter, 358 Osgood, Charles, 353 Other People’s Money, 21, 40, 64 over-collateralization, 169 overcapitalization, 54 oversight, 290 Oversight Panel Report, 340 Oxley, Michael G., 154 P PAC (planned amortization class) bonds, 178 Pacioli, Luca, 285 Packard, Vance, 43 Paille, Antoine, 228 Paine, Thomas, 36 PaineWebber, 201 Pakistan, 22 Palin, Sarah, 95 Pandit, Vikram, 290, 319, 346 panic, markets, 340-341 paper losses, 203 paper money, 27-28.
Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, double helix, European colonialism, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, operation paperclip, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, uranium enrichment
LeMay, however, as he wrote to Twining, was going to fuse a lot of his monster bombs for ground or near-ground bursts to be certain of crushing underground bunkers and so-called hardened targets, such as concrete revetments with thick overhead cover used to protect aircraft. These ground-level bursts would hurl massive amounts of irradiated soil and the pulverized remains of masonry and concrete structures high into the upper atmosphere. The clouds of poisoned soil and debris would spread as they were carried around the earth by the upper atmospheric winds. One result would be a nuclear winter, a catastrophic change in climate of unknown duration, with frigid temperatures at the height of summer, because the dirt in the upper atmosphere would block out the sun’s rays. Agriculture, on which human beings depend for sustenance, would become impossible. Most animal and bird life would be extinguished because the plants, shrubs, and trees on which so many of these creatures depend would also die from the cold and lack of sunlight, without which plants cannot perform the photosynthesis process that nourishes them.
But the generals had the ability to act on their own. That alternative had to exist in case the president was incapacitated or beyond reach. Knowing the characters of LeMay and Power, one can again conclude that had an order to launch not been quickly forthcoming from the White House, they would not have waited. They would have turned everything loose and, in their ignorance of atmospheric radioactive fallout, nuclear winter, and the other doomsday aftereffects of nuclear war, destroyed the entire Northern Hemisphere. The recollection of a Russian officer who served in Cuba was that, if attacked, he and his comrades would have given LeMay and Power their opportunity. In October 1962, Viktor Yesin, who subsequently rose to colonel general and chief of staff of the Soviet Union’s Strategic Rocket Forces, was an engineer lieutenant with an R-12 missile regiment stationed near Calabazar de Sagua, about 160 miles east of Havana.
airport security, Albert Einstein, BRICs, carbon footprint, clean water, cleantech, Climategate, corporate social responsibility, decarbonisation, energy security, Exxon Valdez, failed state, fear of failure, income inequality, Joseph Schumpeter, market fundamentalism, Naomi Klein, new economy, nuclear winter, oil shock, peak oil, Ponzi scheme, purchasing power parity, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, union organizing, University of East Anglia
It provided a deep and direct understanding of the idea of intergenerational impact and that we humans could easily and irreversibly affect the entire planetary system. I think some people today still struggle to believe we really have the power to damage the earth’s environment as a whole. Sure, we could destroy a river here and a forest there, but the planet is so big, surely we couldn’t wreck it all? The prospects of a nuclear winter—a sudden global cooling triggered by a massive nuclear holocaust coating the planet with fine dust particles—showed that in fact, yes, we could, and with just a few buttons and phone calls. It was a sobering time. We had learned to understand the implications of Rachel Carson’s comment that we had “now acquired a fateful power to destroy nature.” Motivated by this threat to my children’s future, I was by 1985 still serving in the military but spending my personal time active in waterborne protests conducted by an activist group, the Sydney Peace Squadron, on Sydney Harbour against visits by nuclear-armed warships from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It by Richard A. Clarke, Robert Knake
barriers to entry, complexity theory, data acquisition, Just-in-time delivery, nuclear winter, packet switching, RAND corporation, Robert Hanssen: Double agent, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, South China Sea, Steve Jobs, trade route, Y2K, zero day
Thus, there was near certainty that by one side’s using nuclear weapons, it was inviting some degree of its own nuclear destruction. What would happen after a massive exchange of nuclear weapons was subject to debate, but few doubted that the two nuclear combatants would have inflicted on each other a level of damage unparalleled in human history. Many believed a large-scale exchange would trigger a “nuclear winter” that could cause the end of all human life. Almost all experts believed that a large-scale exchange by the two superpowers would cause what were termed “prompt deaths” in the scores of millions. (Kahn dryly noted, “No one wants to be the first to kill a hundred million people.”) Any use of nuclear weapons, it was feared, could escalate unpredictably into large-scale use. That fear has deterred the United States and the Soviet Union from using their nuclear weapons for over six decades to date.
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
A petrochemical plant wouldn’t go that long, because there’s not as much to burn. But imagine a runaway reaction with burning plants throwing up clouds of stuff like hydrogen cyanide. There would be a massive poisoning of the air in the Texas-Louisiana chemical alley. Follow the trade winds and see what happens.” All those particulates in the atmosphere, he imagines, could create a mini chemical nuclear winter. “They would also release chlorinated compounds like dioxins and furans from burning plastics. And you’d get lead, chromium, and mercury attached to the soot. Europe and North America, with the biggest concentrations of refineries and chemical plants, would be the most contaminated. But the clouds would disperse through the world. The next generation of plants and animals, the ones that didn’t die, might need to mutate in ways that could impact evolution.”
call centre, clean water, correlation does not imply causation, Dean Kamen, double helix, edge city, germ theory of disease, Google Earth, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, John Snow's cholera map, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, megacity, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, peak oil, side project, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, trade route, unbiased observer, working poor
The great cities of the world would start to look like giant bull’s-eyes: millions of potential casualties conveniently stacked up in easily demolished high-rises. One such attack would probably not impede the metropolitan migration—after all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t stop Tokyo from becoming the world’s largest city. But several detonations might well tip the balance. Turn our metropolitan centers into genuine nuclear targets and you risk a whole other kind of “nuclear winter”: a season of mass exodus unrivaled in human history. It would be bad news, in other words. And this bad news is likely to arrive courtesy of a walk-on part on the world-historical stage, somebody driving a rigged SUV into Soho and pulling the trigger. There are 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world capable of inflicting this level of damage. That we know about. On a planet of more than 6 billion people, there have to be thousands and thousands of lost souls ready and willing to detonate one of those weapons in a crowded urban center.
Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines by Thomas H. Davenport, Julia Kirby
AI winter, Andy Kessler, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, business intelligence, business process, call centre, carbon-based life, Clayton Christensen, clockwork universe, conceptual framework, dark matter, David Brooks, deliberate practice, deskilling, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, estate planning, follow your passion, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Freestyle chess, game design, general-purpose programming language, Google Glasses, Hans Lippershey, haute cuisine, income inequality, index fund, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, inventory management, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, loss aversion, Mark Zuckerberg, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter Thiel, precariat, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, speech recognition, spinning jenny, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Works Progress Administration, Zipcar
As we’ll see, there will remain plenty of opportunities to work with smart machines that don’t yet have it all. Ode to AI Spring For the sellers of smart machines, if we may slightly paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins, nothing is so beautiful as AI spring. The observation that artificial intelligence has its seasons of enthusiasm and also (in AI winter) of despair has become commonplace; by most accounts, the term “AI winter” was first coined as an allusion to nuclear winter, a level of devastation that seemed analogous when a slew of AI-related companies that had been founded in the 1970s all went bust in the early 1980s. By later in that same decade, a thaw was beginning. (In 1988, for example, Time magazine had AI back on its cover with an in-depth story called “Putting Knowledge to Work.”) Since then, the seasons of hype have come and gone. But the reality is that there has never been an actual regression in the technology.
Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis
barriers to entry, Bonfire of the Vanities, cognitive dissonance, corporate governance, financial independence, financial innovation, Home mortgage interest deduction, interest rate swap, London Interbank Offered Rate, margin call, mortgage tax deduction, nuclear winter, Ponzi scheme, The Predators' Ball, yield curve
Friday, October 16, 1987: Day Five The first hurricane in a hundred years hit London squarely early in the morning. Huge trees snapped, power lines fell, and windows shattered from about 2:00 A.M. until dawn. Commuting into work was positively eerie. The streets were empty, and shops normally open were boarded shut. A crowd huddled beneath the awning of Victoria Station, going nowhere The trains did not run. It looked like an ABC miniseries on nuclear winter or perhaps a scene from The Tempest. Caliban could not have chosen a better day to roar. It was a bad day for 170 people in our office. People struggled over fallen trees, treacherous roads, and water hazards to make their way into work only to find, at the end of the steeplechase, no job. Others suffered slow torture, waiting literally in the dark for hours before they learned of their unemployment.
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
"As you know, and to the disappointment of the entire world, the ongoing arms negotiations in Vienna have made no significant progress for over a year, with each side blaming the other for the lack of it. "It is well known by peace-loving people the world over that the Soviet Union has never wished for war, and that only a madman would even consider nuclear war a viable policy option in our modem world of overkill, fallout, and 'nuclear winter.' " "Damn," muttered AP bureau chief Patrick Flynn. The Soviets scarcely acknowledged "nuclear winter" and had never mentioned the concept in so formal a setting. His antennae were already twitching at whatever there was in the wind. "The time has come for substantive reductions in strategic arms. We have made numerous, serious, sincere proposals for real arms reductions, and despite this the United States has proceeded with the development and deployment of its destabilizing, openly offensive weapons: the MX first-strike missile, so cynically called the 'Peacekeeper'; the advanced Trident D-5 first-strike sea-launched ballistic missile; two separate varieties of cruise missiles whose characteristics conspire to make arms control verification almost totally impossible; and of course, the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative, which will take offensive strategic weapons into space.
This Is Only a Test: How Washington D.C. Prepared for Nuclear War by David F. Krugler
Berlin Wall, City Beautiful movement, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, Frank Gehry, full employment, glass ceiling, index card, nuclear winter, RAND corporation, Silicon Valley, urban planning, Victor Gruen, white flight, Works Progress Administration
Civil Defense Stalled,” WP, September 12, 1952; Engineer Commissioner memorandum, December 4, 1952, box 228, folder 4102, RG 351, BOC; DCD, Information Bulletin, September 29, 1952, Office of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders, Washingtoniana. “Public Apathy Still Cripples Defense Plans,” WS, June 8, 1951. Robert Jay Lifton, “Imagining the Real: Beyond the Nuclear ‘End,’ ” in Lester Grinspoon, ed., The Long Darkness: Psychological and Moral Perspectives on Nuclear Winter (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986), 79–99. Lewis Mumford, “Social Effects,” Air Affairs (March 1947): 370–82. Søren Kierkegaard, “The Sickness Unto Death,” in Robert Bretall, ed., A Kierkegaard Anthology (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), 344. Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 293.
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
23andMe, agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, call centre, carbon footprint, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, feminist movement, financial innovation, Flynn Effect, food miles, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, haute cuisine, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, informal economy, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kula ring, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Northern Rock, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, packet switching, patent troll, Pax Mongolica, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, Productivity paradox, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, spice trade, spinning jenny, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, ultimatum game, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, wage slave, working poor, working-age population, Y2K, Yogi Berra
If, on the other hand, you say catastrophe is imminent, you may expect a McArthur genius award or even the Nobel Peace Prize. The bookshops are groaning under ziggurats of pessimism. The airwaves are crammed with doom. In my own adult lifetime, I have listened to implacable predictions of growing poverty, coming famines, expanding deserts, imminent plagues, impending water wars, inevitable oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, mad-cow epidemics, Y2K computer bugs, killer bees, sex-change fish, global warming, ocean acidification and even asteroid impacts that would presently bring this happy interlude to a terrible end. I cannot recall a time when one or other of these scares was not solemnly espoused by sober, distinguished and serious elites and hysterically echoed by the media. I cannot recall a time when I was not being urged by somebody that the world could only survive if it abandoned the foolish goal of economic growth.
The Science of Fear: How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain by Daniel Gardner
Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, Black Swan, Cass Sunstein, citizen journalism, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Doomsday Clock, feminist movement, haute couture, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, medical residency, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, placebo effect, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Y2K, young professional
On June 30, 1908, an asteroid estimated to be 60 meters wide exploded five miles above Tunguska, a remote region in Siberia, smashing flat some 1,200 square miles of forest. Bigger asteroids get really scary. At a little more than a half mile across, an asteroid could dig a crater 9 miles wide, spark a fireball that appears twenty-five times larger than the sun, shake the surrounding region with a 7.8 earthquake, and possibly hurl enough dust into the atmosphere to create a “nuclear winter.” Civilization may or may not survive such a collision, but at least the species would. Not so the next weight class. A chunk of rock 6 miles across would add humans and most other terrestrial creatures to the list of species that once existed. This is what did in the dinosaurs. Fortunately, there aren’t many giant rocks whizzing around space. In a paper prepared for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, astronomer Clark Chapman estimated that the chance of humanity being surprised by a doomsday rock in the next century is one in a million.
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anthropic principle, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, brain emulation, cloud computing, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, cosmological constant, dark matter, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, delayed gratification, demographic transition, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, fear of failure, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, iterative process, job automation, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Netflix Prize, new economy, Norbert Wiener, NP-complete, nuclear winter, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, performance metric, phenotype, prediction markets, price stability, principal–agent problem, race to the bottom, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, reversible computing, social graph, speech recognition, Stanislav Petrov, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Nature of the Firm, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, Turing machine, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, World Values Survey
It appears that a war would probably have fallen short of causing human extinction, even if it had been fought with the combined arsenals held by all the nuclear powers at the height of the Cold War, though it would have ruined civilization and caused unimaginable death and suffering (Gaddis 1982; Parrington 1997). But bigger stockpiles might be accumulated in future arms races, or even deadlier weapons might be invented, or our models of the impacts of a nuclear Armageddon (particularly of the severity of the consequent nuclear winter) might be wrong. 13. This approach could fit the category of a direct-specification rule-based control method. 14. The situation is essentially the same if the solution criterion specifies a goodness measure rather than a sharp cutoff for what counts as a solution. 15. An advocate for the oracle approach could insist that there is at least a possibility that the user would spot the flaw in the proffered solution—recognize that it fails to match the user’s intent even while satisfying the formally specified success criteria.
3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, back-to-the-land, big-box store, bioinformatics, bitcoin, business process, Chris Urmson, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, Community Supported Agriculture, computer vision, crowdsourcing, demographic transition, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global supply chain, global village, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, phenotype, planetary scale, price discrimination, profit motive, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Stallman, risk/return, Ronald Coase, search inside the book, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social web, software as a service, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the built environment, The Nature of the Firm, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, working poor, Zipcar
In a sober editorial on “The End of the Free Lunch,” it takes umbrage at what it regards as a faulty assumption that if social media sites can aggregate millions of users by providing them with free content, advertisers will be anxious to target ads on the medium, in the hope of capturing a percentage of the “long tail.” But what if the users aren’t listening, aren’t watching, and are looking to their peers for product recommendations and validation? The Economist concludes that “the number of companies that can be sustained by revenues from internet advertising turns out to be much smaller than many people thought, and Silicon Valley seems to be entering another ‘nuclear winter.’”89 Advertising revenues are beginning to reflect the pessimism. Internet advertising accounted for $36.6 billion in 2012, while, as mentioned, total U.S. advertising revenue came in at $153 billion, bringing the Internet share of the U.S. advertising market to only around 24 percent.90 The growth in Internet advertising spending, however, appears to be slowing, indicating that the early euphoria about corporate advertising paying the bill for all the free content given away on profit-driven social media sites has softened.
airport security, Atahualpa, carbon footprint, Deng Xiaoping, East Village, financial independence, Google Earth, megacity, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, Ronald Reagan, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, urban planning, urban renewal
Cormac McCarthy’s harrowing novel The Road takes the dystopic premise of those films and subtracts sunshine and mirth and cars that still run. And it adds starvation, depravity, plenty of corpses, and the terror felt by a dying parent and an orphan-to-be. In The Road, highways become the setting for everything that still happens in the world, which means the wanderings of forlorn survivors of nuclear winter, people trying to scratch out a survival from the wreckage of houses, boats, and cars in a new dark age. Some of the pavement is scorched and buckled; some is covered with slush and ice; none of it, the protagonists find, is easy to traverse with a loaded grocery cart full of one’s worldly belongings. The road is the largest remaining artifact of the pre-apocalyptic world, the source of all food and all danger, the only place to be.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
To be losing David right after the failure of my marriage, and right after the terrorizing of my city, and right during the worst ugliness of divorce (a life experience my friend Brian has compared to “having a really bad car accident every single day for about two years”) . . . well, this was simply too much. David and I continued to have our bouts of fun and compatibility during the days, but at night, in his bed, I became the only survivor of a nuclear winter as he visibly retreated from me, more every day, as though I were infectious. I came to fear nighttime like it was a torturer’s cellar. I would lie there beside David’s beautiful, inaccessible sleeping body and I would spin into a panic of loneliness and meticulously detailed suicidal thoughts. Every part of my body pained me. I felt like I was some kind of primitive springloaded machine, placed under far more tension than it had ever been built to sustain, about to blast apart at great danger to anyone standing nearby.
Vertical: The City From Satellites to Bunkers by Stephen Graham
1960s counterculture, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, Chelsea Manning, Commodity Super-Cycle, deindustrialization, Edward Glaeser, Edward Snowden, energy security, Frank Gehry, ghettoisation, Google Earth, high net worth, housing crisis, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, Indoor air pollution, Jane Jacobs, late capitalism, means of production, megacity, megastructure, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, planetary scale, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-industrial society, Project Plowshare, rent control, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Skype, South China Sea, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, trickle-down economics, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, white flight, WikiLeaks
In March 2015, state censors took Chai Jing’s remarkable film on the subject – tellingly titled Under the Dome – off the Internet in China after it had drawn hundreds of millions of viewers and galvanised huge pressures on the government.33 Pollution crises sometimes interrupt apparently inexorable logics of urban warming. In a particularly prolonged smog event in February 2014, Chinese scientists warned that the smog blanketing the Beijing region was becoming so bad that its effects were starting to resemble those of a nuclear winter, creating a city almost ‘uninhabitable for human beings’. Densities of suspended particles hit concentrations over twenty times maximum limits recommended by the World Health Organization. Photosynthesis rates in agricultural crops in the greenhouse-based systems within Beijing’s hinterland were halved.34 In Hong Kong, meanwhile, authorities made a move in the year 2000 to tempt the Walt Disney Corporation to build a theme park there.
Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith
British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, cuban missile crisis, full employment, game design, Haight Ashbury, Jeff Bezos, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, pensions crisis, Ronald Reagan, V2 rocket
“ – or they have big holes in the ground; and they show that the last four major extinctions were caused by impacts and we also have super volcanoes around the planet Earth – you know there’s a lot of volcanic activity all over the solar system, there’s hundreds of volcanoes on Venus and some on Mars and the Moon has a bunch – there’s no active volcanism on the Moon right now, but it had a lot of old volcanism on it and right in the United States there’s three potential super volcanoes; Long Valley Caldera and the big crater there, that Los Alamos sits on top of, and Yellowstone … theoretically Yellowstone goes off every 600,000 years, and it was 640,000 years ago that it last went off, and when it did that, it put two and a half metres of ash in Nebraska, 1,200 kilometres away, so if you get a super volcano it causes the same thing that impacts cause … nuclear winters, wiping out life – ” And from here I pretty much lose it, just registering odd phrases. “ – and the last one, Toba in Sumatra, put 2,800 cubic kilometres of ash in the stratosphere and wiped out – ” “ – I mean, that’s why we all have the same DNA pretty much, because Earth’s population went down to several thousand people and that’s not me talking, this is scientific evidence – ” “ – the statistics right now for impacts are 1 in 5,000 chances that in the next hundred years we’ll get an impact that’ll wipe out civilization – ” “ – the chances of a super volcano occurring, which are independent events, are 1 in 500 in the next hundred years, so if you take those two together, the chances of a civilization-ending event occurring in the next hundred years is 1 in 455.”
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston
8-hour work day, affirmative action, AltaVista, Apple II, Brewster Kahle, business process, Byte Shop, Danny Hillis, don't be evil, fear of failure, financial independence, Firefox, full text search, game design, Googley, HyperCard, illegal immigration, Internet Archive, Jeff Bezos, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, nuclear winter, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social software, software patent, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, stealth mode startup, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, web application, Y Combinator
There was a huge dropoff; the consulting market completely disappeared. Joel Spolsky 347 The consulting market is the derivative of every other market. When a company is growing, they will hire a few consultants to help them grow a little bit more rapidly. When they’re shrinking, they’ll instantly fire all consultants. If the market is even going down by 0.002 percent instead of growing—which it did, because there was a sort of dot-com nuclear winter—then the first people to go will be the consultants. So the consulting business completely collapsed, and every company in that space more or less collapsed. The ones that remained— Razorfish, Scient, Viant, whatever—all sort of conglomerated into one company with about 120 people, and that was it. Livingston: Were you and your cofounder working out of your apartment at this point? Spolsky: We never wanted to do that.
Data Scientists at Work by Sebastian Gutierrez
Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, bioinformatics, bitcoin, business intelligence, chief data officer, clean water, cloud computing, computer vision, continuous integration, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, data is the new oil, DevOps, domain-specific language, follow your passion, full text search, informal economy, information retrieval, Infrastructure as a Service, inventory management, iterative process, linked data, Mark Zuckerberg, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, move fast and break things, natural language processing, Network effects, nuclear winter, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, software as a service, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, stochastic process, technology bubble, text mining, the scientific method, web application
So coaching them on how to sell, how to communicate the vision, how to have their passion come across, how to make somebody feel wanted, not like a commodity—moving beyond the transaction is very important. You’ve got to make it personal, and that’s hard. But that’s what you have to do to win. That’s how you hire great teams. Gutierrez: When you raised your initial and subsequent LP [Limited Partner] funds, how did you sell yourself and what was the big vision? Ehrenberg: Back in ’09, when I started in the midst of the “nuclear winter” in the LP market in the wake of the financial crisis, I really didn’t spend time with traditional venture LPs. My initial money was raised from a small group of top venture general partners who knew me, as well as a bunch of strategics, in addition to my own money. I had this extremely clear thesis around big data being an investable theme. I was the first person to talk about this theme. I also sold the idea of having this traditional venture mindset, but in a small fund that was initiating investments at the seed stage, but that was also going to make follow-on investments.
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
Sometimes he checked into backpacker hostels and partied in a German accent. And he never missed a single sunrise or sunset. One afternoon we watched a dark orange sun bleed into the horizon. "This is one of those sunsets made glorious by the pollution of a congested city. Someone has to say it and it might as well be me--Nature's own work pales in comparison. The same goes for mass destruction. One day we'll all be basking in the glow of a nuclear winter and God, won't it be heaven on the eyes!" In addition to heroin smuggling and prostitution, the democratic cooperative of crime's main trade was gambling on Thai boxing matches, the national sport. Terry would take me along when he bribed the boxers to take a dive. I remember thinking about his legacy in Australia, how he had been obsessed with fighting corruption in sport, and I was impressed with the way he now shat all over it like this.
Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Doomsday Clock, El Camino Real, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, V2 rocket, éminence grise
With sidewalks, roads, and building foundations sprouting in flora, every town in the Zone, like a clock of civilization running backward, is reverting to forest, becoming Soviet ruins like Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or Guatemala’s Tikal. But KEEP OFF THE GRASS has a whole new meaning here; after the massive decontamination effort of the liquidators, “it’s safe where we are,” Sergei Saversky, deputy chief of zone management, explained to a recent group of tourists. “Just don’t walk where you’re not supposed to.” With the wilderness, comes the wild creatures. Contrary to expectations of nuclear winter and atomic desert, after the evacuation of ever-hungry people with their eternal agricultural war against predators, the Zone of Alienation’s 1,660 square miles became a wildlife sanctuary teeming with cormorants, cranes, herons, and sixty-six different species of mammals—bears, wild boar, wolves, red deer, roe deer, beavers, river otter, foxes, lynx, thousands of elk, and a surfeit of barsuk, the badger of central Europe.
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
One was a quartz prism, bigger than my head, held in the grip of a muscular Saunt carved out of marble, and pointed south. Without any explanation from me, Cord saw how sunlight entering into one face of the prism was bounced downwards through a hole in the roof to shine on some metallic construct within. “This I’ve heard of,” she said, “it synchronizes the clock every day at noon, right?” “Unless it’s cloudy,” I said. “But even during a nuclear winter, when it can be cloudy for a hundred years, the clock doesn’t get too far out of whack.” “What’s this thing?” she asked, pointing to a dome of glass about the size of my fist, aimed straight up. It was mounted at the top of a pedestal of carven stone that rose to about the same height as the prism-holding statue. “It’s got to be some kind of a telescope, because I see the slot where you put in the photomnemonic tablet,” she said, and poked at an opening in the pedestal, just beneath the lens.