<P>Death, War, Famine and Plague, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been busy throughout human history and before. Every now and then the newspapers warn us of some new impending doom laden scenario that may be about to befall the human race. Some snippet of information is seized upon and extrapolated to warn us in banner headlines of an uncertain future. Some of those warnings are based on fact while others are pure speculation. Here are a few of those scenarios that have been proposed, one or two have already happened.</P>
<P><SMALL>The Earth will be struck by a large meteorite. The initial impact will have the force of many nuclear bombs causing initial blast, tidal waves and immense amounts of debris to be thrown into the atmosphere forming a blanketing cloud. This will have the effect of cutting out light and heat from the sun which will result in the death of vegetation and sea algae and consequent starvation of the survivors. It is possible that this has already occurred in the Earth’s history on at least five occasions resulting in mass extintions, The last one notably at the end of the Cretaceous period and is thought to be the reason for the extinction of the Dinosaurs. It is attributed to a 6 mile wide meteorite that hit the Gulf of Mexico area at Chicxulub on the Yucatan Peninsula forming a crater 125 miles in diameter,
<P> Several Asteroids are known to revolve within the orbits of the planets in the solar system and are entirely predictable. Ceres being the largest at about 600 miles in diameter. The problem is the unknown ones that may be heading our way at the moment. In 1997 astronomers calculated that Asteroid 1997 XF 11 would hit the Earth in the year 2028, however, after some reflection and a little recalculation they revised their estimates to a near miss of 600,000 miles.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>The theory that a comet will collide with the Earth is proposed with much the same results as above. The paths of many comets are known and their arrivals in the Earth’s vicinity is predictable, The best known being Halleys comet returning every 86 years. It does seem likely that this occurred in the recent past at Tunguska, Russia. In 1908 over 30 square miles of forest wase knocked flat in the wastes of Siberia by a blast which didn’t leave a crater. It has been attributed to a number of causes including an early atomic weapon and a visiting alien spacecraft accidentally blowing up in our atmosphere. However the most likely cause attributed is that of a comet strike where the composite materials of water ice have melted during entry of our atmosphere. Should this re occur over a densely populated area such as London or New York it is thought the effect will be similar to an atomic weapon air burst.In 1994 comet Shoemaker -Levy 9 having previously broken up into a number of pieces, was observed in collision with Jupiter. Its speed on impact was 130 Kilometers per second, and a resulting fireball from one of the larger pieces was estimated to be the size of the Earth.Another recent comet, Hyakutake passed within 15 Million miles of Earth, it was considered at the time to be a near miss.</P>
<P>There may be more on the way, American Scientists recently confirmed the calculations of a British astronomer that proposes a tenth planet in the solar system, larger than Jupiter but orbiting about three million, million miles out from the sun. Its presence outside the Oort cloud, a comet reservoir just outside the solar system, is thought to be causing comet material to break away and plunge in towards the sun.One NASA computer programmer has already taken to the hills, he is convinced that comet Lee will collide with Earth sometime between now and 2008, NASA says it will miss by 77 million miles.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>The scenario proposed is that a volcanic eruption of immense proportions will bring about a similar effect to a meteor strike. The size of explosion necessary would have to be larger than that of Krakatoa in 1883. That eruption was said to have been felt in London and for several years afterwards vivid red sunsets were attributed to the debris in the atmosphere. It triggered vast tidal waves which struck the coasts of Sumatra and Java causing the loss of around 35000 lives. Many volcanoes lay dormant for years. Son of Krakatoa is at present regrowing in the centre of the crater formed by the previous explosion.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>Concerns have been voiced in letters to Scientific American magazine that an experiment to be carried out at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York state may result in disaster. Scientists at the laboratory have constructed a Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) who's purpose is to create a quark-gluon plasma. To do so they intend to smash together the nuclei of atoms at nearly light speed to study the fundamental properties of matter from the resulting crash. One of the side effects that it is thought possible while conducting this experiment is the forming of matter so dense that its gravitational pull will not allow even light to escape. Matter surrounding it will be drawn in creating a Black Hole. It is estimated that the Earth could be consumed in approximately 45 minutes.
Scientists at the laboratory say there is no chance of this ocurring.
The experiment is to be carried out in the autumn of 1999.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>At periodic times the major planets of the Solar System come into a line of sight on thesame side of the sun. As alignments and eclipses have always been taken as portents for good or ill the fear is that this will bring about an imbalance of the overall system causing their normal orbits to become disrupted. This will result in the Earths orbit either shifting further out from, or closer to the sun with the resulting lowering or increasing of temperature at which life may no longer be sustainable. In an extreme case it may even result in the Earth flying off at a tangent altogether.
The planets of the Solar System continue to circle the sun at approximately the same distances and have done pretty well since formation. In 1986??? all the major planets Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus were aligned within a few degrees of arc on the same side of the Sun as the Earth. No apparent effect has been noticed. Except maybe for the weather...</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>Warnings of disaster from minor inconvenience to complete social breakdown have been circulated since this threat was perceived some years ago. Also known as The Millennium Bug it is taken seriously enough to warrant a major government funded action campaign and the design of a cheery little 'computer chip' logo. At the turn of the millenium, just when everyone is enjoying themselves, it is thought that many computers will click over to the year 2000 and switch off, shut down or otherwise crash due to their inability to recognise the 00 part of the date as year 2000. The resulting failures of power and food distribution causing starvation, food riots, power blackouts and general mayhem on the streets, and the Millennium Dome lights to go out will bring about the collapse of society as we know it.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome was first identified in 1981 and scientists warn that by 1997 over 30 million people worldwide have been infected by the Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) which causes AIDS. In the United States alone more than a third of a million people have already died. When initially infected by HIV through the transfer of the virus in bodily fluids such as blood, semen or breast milk the recipient may only experience mild flu like symptoms, but will appear to recover as the immune system fights off the virus. HIV cannot be killed off
completely as it mutates into a slightly different form to which the immune system must again respond. The fight between virus and immune system carries on for up to about 10 years until the immune system breaks down, at which point it leaves the body unable to fight off any infection.During this period of time those infected with HIV show few symptoms and many do not realise they have the disease while unknowingly passing it on usually through sexual contact. There is at present no known cure although treatment with various drugs may delay the onset of full blown
<P><SMALL>Concerns that Intermittent outbreaks of the haemorrhagic fever Ebola will become a full blown epidemic has concerned world health authorities sufficiently to fund considerable research into its treatment. Such is the speed and the unpleasant manner with which it kills that it is thought that should it get a sufficient start, the spread of the
disease would result in heavy loss of life.
The origins of the disease appears to stem from the Nigeria/Congo region of Africa in which most outbreaks occur and is named from the Ebola river area of Nigeria/??/ The virus is a level 4 pathogen [this is rated higher than AIDS] which is transmitted by direct contact with infected tissue and body fluids. The incubation period varies from 2 to 21 days depending on the strain and the mortality rate is between 70 and 90%. It is closely associated with a previous outbreak of Marburg, named from the German town where an outbreak occurred which originally claimed 25 lives. Currently around 400 cases a year are recorded.
It has the ability to mutate so that each outbreak virus is slightly different from the preceding one. Scientists are concerned that a chance mutation in the virus may cause it to become more infectious. The last incarnation, Ebola [Zaire] appears to have the ability to be transmitted by air rather than direct contact.</SMALL><P>
<P><SMALL>Fears of an global influenza epidemic similar to the pandemic ‘Spanish Flu’ bug that killed over 22 million people in 1918 were raised after a new strain of 'Hong Kong' flu was identified in a 10 month old girl in September 1999. The girl, who is the only victim so far detected, has recovered but scientists are alarmed because the strain is thought to have originated in pigs in the same way as the 1918 variant.‘Spanish Flu’ died out in 1919 after nearly everyone alive at that time had become immune to that form of the virus. New strains have developed and several epidemics including so called ‘Asian’ and ‘Hong Kong’ varieties have occurred at regular intervals.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>Bubonic Plague or The Black Death caused by a bacteria ‘Yersinia pestis’, killed more than a third of the worlds population in the 14th Century. It was carried by rodents, particularly the black rat, and was transferred to humans by their fleas. Originating in Northern China in 1332 it spread across Asia, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East finally dying out in 1350 after accounting for 30 million deaths. Sporadic epidemics of the plague continued through to the end of the seventeenth century, one outbreak in England killed around 100,000 in London alone in 1665, and completely wiped out some rural villages, while an outbreak of a pneumonic form which has a 98% mortality rate broke out in Hong Kong in 1894 killed more than 10 million people in Asia.
Bubonic Plague responds to treatment with antibiotics although it still kills around 40 people a year in America. In 1997 a child in Madagascar died of a strain of the plague which has become resistant to antibiotics. Scientists fear that if this strain spreads it will have serious consequences.
In 1995/??/small colonies of black rats were found in the South of England. It was estimated in 1995/??/that no one in England is ever further than 20 feet from a rat.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or ‘Mad Cow Disease’ is a degenerative brain condition in cattle
thought to have originated from feeding them with high protein feeds infected with the disease ‘scrapie’ from sheep. Studies indicate that the consumption of BSE infected beef by humans is linked to the emergence of a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD) which is spread by a prion, an infectious protein particle. Certainly BSE has already wrought its own apocalypse in the bovine population of the UK where in its efforts to stamp out the disease a wholesale slaughter of cattle has taken place of complete herds and cows over 3 years old. Despite this official figures still show around 2000 cases in1999.
It is possible that humans may have been exposed to BSE since as early as 1970. Scientists believe that since the disease can lay dormant for many years that the 47 human deaths up to 1999 from CJD in the UK are only the tip of an iceberg of the numbers that are to follow.</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>Coming as it does, hard on the heels of ‘Mad Cow Disease’ it is not surprising that Genetically Modified Crops has raised some controversy concerning its safety. Its stated aims are laudable in that by altering the genetic make up of a crop it will make it hardier or more resistant to disease or drought, and therefore more suitable for areas where it is difficult for those crops to be grown at present.The fear is that we are entering here into ‘Gods realm’ and that not enough is known of the effects that may occur when introduced into the human food chain. The growth
of an extra head or two, glowing in the dark or just melting away like the wicked witch of the north are all fears of possibilities of ‘Frankenstein Foods.'</SMALL></P>
<P><SMALL>In the beginning only two superpowers possessed nuclear weapons and, possibly more importantly the ability to deliver them anywhere on the face of the globe, The likelyhood of an all out nuclear war was thought to be a fairly likely possibility and it is generally accepted that in 1959 the United States and the USSR came to the brink during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The results of which would have meant millions of deaths not only from the initial attacks but also from radiation poisoning. Further effects from radioactive fall out would not be confined to the countries concerned as it would be spread on the four winds throughout the world and a nuclear winter due to the amount of debris sucked into the atmosphere would be set up. More countries than ever now have the capability to produce nuclear weapons and as they join the nuclear club the risk increases.</SMALL></P>
Well what can one say. All sorts of opinons on this.
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