Tuesday, July 9, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT: End of the World

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/28/13

The show starts by positing that some people (Nostradamus in particular) have been able to predict the future.  At this point, I'll cry "Bullshit!" but they continue anyway, starting with "secret" Mayan predictions of the end of the world, in 2012. (Maybe this show was supposed to be released earlier, 'cause we're still here in 2013.)  This "astronomer" believes that a supervolcano, Yellowstone Perhaps, will erupt (last year), bringing cataclysm.  One survivalist plans to build underground shelters around the country and the world, and has recruited people to live in them.  (He refers to the show date being 2011.)  Are we nuts yet?  An anthropologist says it's happened before; we should be worried. But Jake Lowenstern of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory isn't worried.  He points out the worriers are exaggerating statistics, and even those stats are based on too small a sample to forecast accurately.  He also points out that most Yellowstone eruptions have been on the scale of a Hawaiian volcano -- and Yellowstone has numerous minor eruptions that may relieve the pressure for even that.

In a commercial break, the show points out that the first doomsday prediction was that the world would end in AD 666.  How did that work out?  Ready to stop listening to kooks yet?  I am, but the show continues -- and, as a public service, so do I.

Next up is the idea that solar flares may kill us all.  Do low sunspots portend an impending "big one" of solar flares.  One "scientist" even believes that alien ships are causing flares.  An actual scientist, though, believes that the changes are caused by changes in the sun's magnetic fields (and perhaps poles).  No problem for us, he insists.  Yet, a journalist believes that a big solar flare would wipe out our technological society -- blacking out everything.  Proof, please.

Finally, futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that in 20 years, computers will be operating at human levels.  He also believes man and machine will merge by the mid 21st century, and he doesn't find that scary.  He thinks we will keep our humanity, but transcend the limitations of our biology.  One philosopher fears that computers may become aware enough to do things we don't want -- like Skynet.  Robitics maker Noel Sharkey thinks humanoid robots are a long way from taking over the world -- because there's no evidence that might happen, and robots are just not smart.  "They're not bright enough to be called stupid," he says.  They can't even feed themselves.  They're incapable of exceeding their programming.  The real problem, he says, will be the misuse of robots as weapons by humans -- not danger from evil or rogue robots.

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