Category: Background

The Apocalypse Throughout the Ages

By Frans Snackers

December 21, 2012 was the date of the Apocalypse according to interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar.  The date gripped the world, resulting in various media outlets jumping on the bandwagon, like the producers of the film 2012. However, the date passed and nothing happened. While this might be disappointing to people that truly believed the world was going to end and consequently spent all their wealth on living it up one last time, the rest of the world was not really surprised nothing actually had happened. Throughout the ages, a lot of people have set dates for the end of the world, so far none of them have had it right.

Predicting apocalypses has been a hobby of many doomsday-preachers throughout the ages. This started off as early as in the Roman days, and still continues to this day. People might assume that these predictions are only made by people who will either benefit from people believing them, or people that would generally be considered lunatics. However, persons of note have also dabbled in the art of predicting the end of the world. Examples are Christopher Columbus and Isaac Newton, the last of whom predicted the world to end in 2060, based on his study of biblical scriptures. Let’s hope the apple missed his head on that theory.

Many predictions for the end of the world have had religious backgrounds. For example, the Puritan minister Cotton Mather, alumnus of Harvard and the university of Glasgow, was a prediction-enthusiast.  The first date the minister set was 1697, which he revised to 1716 when that prediction failed. When 1716 came and passed, the minister rolled the dice once more and set the date on the year 1736. Unfortunately for Mather, he struck out on his third try as well.

So when can we expect the end of the world? Scientists have set the date in approximately one billion years from now.  By this time, the sun will have swollen to such size that the surface of the Earth will have been burned to a crisp. However, well before it has come to this, the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere of the earth will have dropped too low to support any plant life, and thus have already eradicated all life on earth.

 

Sources:

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/newton-world-will-end-2060/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/specials/washington_2000/649913.stm

Richard Abanes, End-Time Visions. Four Walls Eight Windows, New York, 1998. p.338

Krokodil: The Zombie Apocalypse Drug

By Maggie Tan

The flesh-rotting drug ‘krokodil’ – or desomorphine – appeared in Siberia and Russia around 2002 and is now widely used in the poor rural areas of Russia. The first cases of krokodil have recently emerged in the United States and they have been met with panic and investigation. This raises the question whether the drug will become popular in the US.

Krokodil earns it name due to the way it alters the users’ bodies. Not only does the drug turn the skin of its users green and scaly, but it also leads to “serious damage to the veins and soft tissue infections, rapidly followed by gangrene and necrosis”, says CNN. Krokodil can also cause other irreversible damage, such as speech impediments and erratic movement. Said side effects of the drug have led the media to name krokodil ‘the zombie drug’.

Krokodil could be cooked up just by combining codeine from painkillers with other readily available ingredients, such as iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, alcohol or oil. This deadly concoction is then injected into the veins leading to a high that is similar to heroin. However, compared to heroin, krokodil is not only easier to make, but also far less expensive.

Despite its disturbing side effects, the use of krokodil has not slowed in Russia. Victor Ivanov of the Federal Drug Control Service told Time that “since 2009, the amount of the drug seized has increased 23-fold”. Furthermore, an overwhelming 65 million doses of the drug was confiscated in the first quarter of 2011. As of 2012, the sale of medicines containing codeine without prescription is banned in Russia.

Although krokodil is not yet a controlled substance in the United States, the DEA does not believe that the drug will grow popular in the US. Whereas Russia has a shortage of heroin, there is an abundance of heroin and other opiate drugs in the US. Nevertheless, there is still anxiety over the use of krokodil in the US, as krokodil is a cheaper substitute for heroin and can be marketed as such, attracting addicts who are inclined to use.

Health Hazard of Fukushima

By Rhea Holleman

On 11 March 2011, the most powerful earthquake that has ever hit Japan, caused an enormous tsunami to hit the coast. Not only did thousands of people die, and did more than a hundred thousand buildings collapse, the tsunami caused so much damage in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant that nuclear meltdowns occurred.

A nuclear meltdown means that the core of a nuclear reactor has melted, and consequently releases radioactive particles. For 20 km around the Fukushima power plant, an evacuation zone is in effect. People living within a 30 km radius have been advised to move, or to stay indoors and take precautions. Despite the measures the government has taken to protect the safety of its population, some concern remains over the health risks for the residents of Japan and for contamination of its water supplies.

Even though the disaster happened over two years ago, contaminated water that was used to cool the reactors is still leaking out of the storage tanks and into the environment. The radiation levels surrounding the leaked water has been measured to be around 2,200 mSv per hour. In comparison, a typical level of background radiation is about 1-13 mSv per YEAR.

When exposed to a high level of radioactive particles, the chemical bonds in the human body break. The DNA in the cells can be damaged, and the long term risk of cancer is increased. The population in Japan surrounding the power plant, outside of the evacuation zone, may have a 1-2% increase in their risk of getting cancer. Water supplies surrounding the plant have elevated levels of radioactive particles, as have water supplies in Tokyo, though the levels are not as high as to be alarming. Nevertheless, young children are advised not to eat or drink products that are contaminated with radioactive particles over the set limit.

The Fukushima situation as it is now, is manageable; the health risks are not as big as was feared. But should the situation deteriorate, who knows what could happen?

 

Bibliography

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23779560

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12722435

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_UN_approves_radiation_advice_1012121.html