Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" when NASA can't deflect a large asteroid

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”, the new “romantic comedy” from Focus Features and director Lorene Scarfaria, provides enough warning to deserve to be reviewed on this blog.

The obvious comparison in Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (Movies blog, Nov. 11, 2011). That film is much grimmer and moodier, and more gradual in introducing the phantom planet menace. This time, the rogue planetoid is called “Matilda” (“On the Beach”), a sexier name than “Melancholia”.  And here there is no Wagnerian, chromatic music; just pop stuff.

This film (Sacrfaria) hits us right away.  The anti-hero, life insurance agent Dodge (the “man-o-lantern” Steve Carell  -- his chest never shows here) , sits in his car and hears a radio message that a space mission  (the last chance to “save mankind”) to destroy a 70-mile-wide approaching asteroid has crashed and failed.  The world will end in three weeks as a fireball from the explosion encircles the earth.  (In “Knowing” in 2009, it was a fireball from a sun storm).  

Society shuts down quickly.  The last airline flight, on Delta, lands.  Plans are announced to cut off Internet and power about a day before.  Rioting breaks out.

Dodge goes on a road trip to reunite with a sweetheart (Keira Knightley), and a number of family paradoxes emerge.  But it all sounds pretty silly compared to the “big problem”.

The film is supposed to take place in New Jersey but doesn’t look like it.

At the very end, there is only a sonic boom and a whiteout.  But it is the end of the world.

It probably would take much less than a 70 mile asteroid to wipe us out.  Maybe 5 miles would do.  A comet would have to be a bit bigger.  Could NASA deflect a large asteroid now?  The largest one, Ceres, is in the asteroid belt and is considered a “dwarf planet” now.

The film seems silly compared to the 1998 hits, “Armageddon” (asteroid) and “Deep Impact” (comet). 
The film was produced by Mandate Pictures and Indian Paintbrush.

I saw the film at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA in a small auditorium but with new digital projection. The audience was not particularly impressed with a main story that seemed too trivial for the premise. 

The official site is here

Pictures: (1) When a new cell phone tower invokes Stephen King's "Langoliers"; (2, 3):  A woman was advertising this film a short distance from the AFI Silverdocs, at the Metro station in Silver Spring. MD.

Friday, June 15, 2012

NBC's "Revolution" in Fall 2012 apparently anticipates an electromagnetic pulse attack

A site called Ecorazzi has a four-minute trailer from the Fall 2012 NBC Monday night series by J. J. Abrams called “Revolution”.  The second "o" is made to look like a computer off-switch. 

I generally don’t write reviews of trailers, but the hype that this series is getting this June (in the early summer of 2012) deserves mention.

The link is here

With only a tiny amount of advanced notice, all the electricity in the world goes out, and society breaks down into militia ruled by warlords as the story picks up fifteen years later.  Well, maybe a few people do have electricity.  There’s a scene where a girl tries to conscript a young man into some rescue effort “because we’re family” and he says, “But I hardly know you.”

The look of the series reminds me of “Life After People.” 

It’s more interesting to show how something like this happens than to show the aftermath months or years later (as in “Falling Skies”).

This sounds like the result of a high-altitude EMP blast, from a terrorist, enemy (like Iran or North Korea), or possibly extraterrestrials (that’s the first thing hostile aliens would do).  A solar storm wouldn’t cause planes to fall out of the sky, because there would be more notice.  A really catastrophic coronal mass ejection might affect electronic ignition of some cars.  Smaller, locally effective EMP’s from microwaves are possible, and weapons to do this belong to the US Army and have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A blog called “The Foundry” by a conservative group  has a posting (by Michaela Bendiva) titled “NBC’s ‘Revolution’ shows life after an electromagnetic pulse attack” (link) and goes on to castigate power companies for not hardening the grid. I agree with Heritage on that point.  Why are we so complacent?

In the early fall of 2001, Popular Science magazine warned about microwave EMP machines as weapons (just before 9/11). Later, in 2001, the film "Oceans 11" showed a local EMP outage in Las Vegas (as the thieves go about their smash-grab job), but then the lights came back on, which they wouldn't.  The Strip would really be toast for a long time. 

It's ironic that you need media to watch the series, that predicts the end of media.  All that is left is "People".  And music.  A Steinway piano doesn't need electricity.  Does that suggest a plot thread? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Was the world before Noah's flood "high-tech"?

A Judged Creation: High-Tech Society Before Noah’s Flood” , by Billy Crone, March 2011, at Niagara Frontier Bible Church (New York State?),  is on YouTube in two parts.

The “sermon”, with many embedded slides and videos, documents some evidence of technological advances in societies before the Flood.  Some of the evidence includes a mechanical supercomputer, batteries that could generate electricity, and a lot of material about coal (as if mountaintop removal were practiced in ancient societies).

We could do without the “obvious” fundamentalist message (and creationism), to be intrigued by the idea that an advanced civilization came to civilization and that individual citizens may have been too “smart” for their own specific good.

In part 2, he mentions the Kensington Stone in Minnesota, which I believe I have seen.  He then shows many complex underwater city ruins, such as off the coast of Cuba and India.  There is a History Channel excerpt showing impressive underwater ruins off SE Japan.

Some of the examples could be compared to the Discovery Film “City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri”, off the coast of Greece, reviewed on the TV blog June 3, 2012.

Just a reminder: we really can fail.

Links are, Part 1, and Part 2, total of about 84 minutes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Documentary on pole shift seems level-headed: "Magnetic Storm" by Duncan Hopp

I found a 52-minute documentary film, “Magnetic Storm: Pole Shift May Be Imminent, Please Educate Yourself”, directed by Duncan Hopp, posted by Sarah Livesey  in April 2011. The narrative style resembles that of a History Channel program. 

The film is quite level-headed.  It gives a basic background on how the Earth’s magnetic field works, and then gives a comparison with the tragic history of Mars.  Martian volcanic rocks show magnetism and evidence of a past field that failed because the planet’s core was too small and too cold. When the magnetic field of Mars failed, the solar wind gradually blew most of its atmosphere away so that today we have the almost airless, probably lifeless desert surface that is now familiar from Viking pictures.

Today, the Earth’s magnetic field emanates from the South magnetic pole and circulates back to the north, making the Earth one big electromagnet.  There is evidence that the field is weakening, and that a lessening of the field precedes a complete pole shift, which likely happened last 750000 years ago. 

A pole shift might happen gradually, resulting in a prolonged period of several weak magnetic poles (rather than just two), with much weaker protection of life on Earth from solar radiation, especially solar storms and coronal mass ejections (yesterday’s post).  It would not necessarily produce a physical cataclysm, although, as noted yesterday, it could become impossible to keep the power grid on.   There is already considerable evidence of great meandering and weakening of the south magnetic pole.

A scientist named Rob Coe shows evidence of past pole shifts in volcanic layers in Steam’s Mountain, on the East side of the Cascade Range in Oregon.

Here’s the basic link.

The idea of a pole shift forms the basis of the novel “The HAB Theory” by Allan W. Eckert, iUniverse, originally published in the 1970s.   

The Paramount 2003 film “The Core”, by John Amiel, was predicated on the failure of the Earth’s magnetic field and has explorers going to the center of the Earth, Jules Verne style, to reignite the core with nuclear explosives.  All pretty silly.  

Here’s a 4-minute video by “Survive Pole Shift”:

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA simulation of the Earth’s magnetic field, here

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Kaku discusses solar storm threat to power grid, various videos

Michio Kaku, physics professor and author, discusses the risk of another huge coronal mass ejection, associated with a “solar flare” in this 6 minute video from BigThink (link, requires ShockWave).

Kaku explains that the Sun has a pole shift every eleven years, explaining the increase in sunspot activity and solar flares. In 2012-2013 we’re entering another period.  The Earth usually dodges the bullet because of the vastness and geometry of space, but the probability of a direct hit with a Carrington-sized CME (referring to the 1859 event) is significant over several hundred elapsed years.

Kaku urges policy makers to build redundancy into satellite systems and the power grid.  Many areas, especially in polar latitudes, could be out of power for weeks or months.  The Internet could not function as wireless would be out.

One proposal would have utilities build large dampers to protect transformers, and implement blackouts when a huge CME is expected.

Evetsnalon offers this 14-minute video “Solar Maximum Cycle 24”, link. The largest event is called an X-class.  The 1989 event in Quebec shorted out transformers as far away as New Jersey.  Even gasoline stations depend on satellites.  It’s possible that automobile ignitions could be shorted out, as with an EMP terror attack. There is discussion of survival planning, including body core temperature.  Ironically, the hybrid and electric cars might be the most vulnerable.  

First Friday’s Revival has a 38 minute video “NASA Warns of Solar Superstorm 2012” here.    Michio Kaku appears and refers to it as a “potential Katrina from outer space”.  A technologically advanced and dependent society is more vulnerable than a primitive or pre-industrial society.  There is some concern over a big one in 2012 or 2013.  This would be far worse than the black out of the East Coast in August 2003. And the blackout could come suddenly, on a clear day.  This particular video does go into religion and salvation. 

All of this forms the premise of an NBC series this fall 2012, "Revolution", imdb link.

Why don't the power companies talk about this?   Newt Gingrich has posed this question. Hope we don't have another Carrington before the NBC series gets to start.