Tag: San Andreas Fault

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

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Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 296: The World, Coast To Coast

I promised my wife I could make an article about geology interesting. In my defense, I’d downed two delicious pints of Alleykat’s Chili-Pepper lager, and where some men get beer muscles I tend to get a beer writing ability. Plate tectonics? Hell yeah! This shit’ll be riveting!

Now that the passage of a few hours has siphoned the alcohol from my bloodstream, I’m faced with a daunting task. Yet I can’t help but be drawn to this topic. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a supercontinent cycle.

The basics of supercontinents are pretty easy to grasp. The plates that make up the earth’s continental crust are always moving, shimmying under our feet and causing earthquakes that range from the catastrophic down to those tiny ones that stoned people aren’t entirely sure didn’t just happen in their heads. Once upon a time – about 300 million years ago – all our continents were bunched together in a single clump, like the hard candies in my grandmother’s candy dish. We call this clump Pangea.

I didn’t check, but I don’t think those colors accurately reflect the color of the soil.

How do we know this happened? It’s more than just a guess. First of all, the pieces fit together. It’s not a perfect click, but it’s pretty damn close. Second, there are similar sedentary rocks found where these continents used to be connected. Third… well, there are a lot more reasons, ranging from fossils to glaciology to something called paleomagnetics. Let’s just call this a fact and move on. Sciencey people have written it down in text books and it’s on the internet – what more evidence do we need? Read more…