Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vivos - Why wait?

Every so often it becomes apparent that some of the more mindless optimism from the 1950's is still alive and well. Take the backyard bomb shelter for example. As I understand it back then there were folks who were so convinced that they were about to be attacked by the "Reds" that they would actually build a a concrete bunker in their backyards where in the event of a nuclear attack they could stuff their families and live of jugged water and canned peas for a while before emerging into, what, a radioactive wasteland. Yay.

My point, such as it is, is that even the best home shelter built was completely useless because of the eye-buggeringly terminal horribleness of the event it was supposed to protect you from. It was sort of like lighting a paper match at the beginning of a hurricane for light and heat. In other words, the idea that you could survive a nuclear war by squatting in a concrete bunker, drinking stale water and eating mouldy cheese is, to be nice, silly. If the mouldy cheese didn't kill you then the radiation would. Of course the idea that false security is every bit as good as real security has never really gone away as anybody who paid attention to the airport "security" in the continental 48 would have noticed post-9/11. Still, that was the way some people thought in the 1950's, oh so long ago.

Then right here in the 21st Century along comes inventor and real-estate mogul, Robert Vicino and he has convinced some out there that the whole bunker idea is a damn fine one. Vicino has opted to "kick it up a notch" though and through his company, called The Vinos Group, plans to build a series of luxury underground survival shelters, each capable of holding up to 200 specially selected folks in pampered comfort as they survive any of a series of potentially world-ending disasters for up to a year (since obviously any world-ending disaster would only last up to a year, right?) Then, after the rest of the planet has been scoured clean by nuclear or biological war, or a giant tsunami, or super-volcanoes, or maybe something even more unlikely (like magic turtle-shaped chickens with laser eyes and zeiss monocles) the residents can come back up to resume their lives. Yep, that's about the dumb of it.

There is, of course, a web-site and actually if you ignore the content it is excitingly dynamic and pretty easy to use (a quick click on the post title should take you right there - hold on tight!) There are lots of colours too! There is a set of icons explaining the why-fors and the who-hows of the whole Vivos Group deal, with time-tables, descriptions of the proposed shelters and a general list of supplies, including a menu (with wine but not beer. That's unAmerican, isn't it?) There are comments from interested parties as well as applications for membership ans much more. Below this is a clock counting down to December 2012 (the site says that, "Vivos is not about 2012..." which certainly explains the count-down clock.) Along the bottom of the page is another set of icons describing the different possible wold ending catastrophes: Nuclear war, bio-war, planet X, solar flares, pole shift, global tsunamis, killer comets and super volcano. Sounds like one of those disaster movies on steroids.

In an interview with CBS (http://cbs2.com/local/Vivos.Hidden.Bunker.2.1699568.html) Vicino said, "our web-site is very careful not to promote fear, but to provide an education about the things that are already out there." Right, like Planet X or super-volcanoes. Planet X was first proposed in 1995 by Nancy Leider who claims to be in contact with aliens from the star Zeta Reticuli via an implant in her brain. As intriguing as it may be to gather astronomical evidence with brain implants, I tend to side with actual astronomers and scientists who say that Planet X does not exist and Nancy Leider is a nut. Oddly enough the Vivos take is a little more accommodating to Ms Leider's delusion with the suggestion that mysterious Planet X will pass close to the Earth possibly causing a pole shift which may wipe out humanity. A pole shift, by the way, is a natural event that takes hundreds or even thousands of years when the Earth's axis shifts a degree or two. The Vivos example is where this happens within a few hours and causes earthquakes, acid rain and giant ill-tempered quail appearing out of a trans-dimensional rift. Ok, I made up the quail thing (quail are generally confused rather than ill-tempered) but it does have the benefit of being just as accurate as what is on the Vivos site.

Just to reassure potential members the site says that Vivo's shelters will be able to survive flooding submersion for extended periods (up to a year, I guess) and force 10 earthquakes in successions (although I sort of wonder how the folks inside the shelters will do getting shaken around like that - imagine a bunch of jelly-sacks in a paint-can shaker). Regarding the earthquake thing, the site has a map of the continental US showing where the shelters are planned to be built. Several are set conveniently along the west coast of the US, which I hear is prone to the occasional earthquake.
Incidentally; I believe that traditionally earthquakes are measured with the Richter scale and not some imaginary "Force" scale.

Another non-fear educational icon is the one regarding solar flares. NASA, an entity which has some small understanding of outer space, says that we are entering a time of higher solar activity, which is a cyclical event and has been happening since, well, ever. There may be some static in wireless communication which borders on the inconvenient, but is hardly a global disaster. The Vivos Group looks at it a little differently however. The picture they paint is one of a sun just waiting to blast the Earth with protons, cooking people where they stand and frying the heck out of all electronics on the planet. They present the example of "Carrington" who observed a solar flare in 1859 and the resulting electronic pandemonium of that flare. NASA mentions this story as well; Richard Carrington was monitoring sunspots when he noticed the flare. The flare reached the Earth the following morning and lit the sky with auroras and caused some havoc with the telegraph systems then in use. Vivos claims that a similar event today would fry electronic systems worldwide, and estimates that 90% of the population would die off due to the lack of infrastructure. Hmmm... Sounds bad. A Carrington event is a once in five hundred years sort of thing and really not worth worrying about (http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/06may_carringtonflare/). What say we give the Vivoians the benefit of the doubt for a moment though. So someone noticed the major solar flare and the word goes out to "man the shelters!" Everybody gets to the shelters and the blast doors are closed then the EMP hits, frying electronics world wide. So now they are all trapped deep underground in the dark with electronic doors that they can't open. Yeah, good one.

They also mention gamma radiation emitted from star WR104 which is suspected to be on it's way here to totally ruin our day. Um, hate to be a wet blanket but this isn't going to happen either. It is true that at one time some scientists thought that WR104 shared a rotational axis with our solar system and if the star went super-nova then the gamma burst could head our way. Wr104 is 8,000 lightyears away, and that is a long way even in metric. More recent observations have shown that WR104 in fact does not share the solar systems rotational axis and we are not in harms way. Oddly enough the site does not mention this, but that's all right since the point I am trying to make here is that both of these events (solar flares and gamma bursts) are impossible to predict and nearly impossible to detect until they hit. At 8,000 lightyears away anything going on at WR104 will be hard to detect and if a gamma ray burst is headed our way we won't know about it until it hits. It takes light from the sun just over eight minutes to reach the Earth so anything happening there we won't know about for eight minutes, as long as someone happens to be looking at the time. Honestly, are these things really worth worrying about?

Yeah, here are some quick quotes: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public" - H.L. Mencken, "There's a sucker born every minute" - David Hannum, "Who's the more foolish: the fool or the fool who follows him?" - Obi-Wan Kenobi. Do I think Robert Vicino is trying to take advantage of the dim and the dumb? Yeah. Taking advantage of those who don't think too fast on their feet is probably the oldest way to make a buck and Robert has just followed in the footsteps of televangelists and other snake-oil salesmen. Well, whatever, I suppose. If someone has a pile of money just burning a hole in their pocket, well, why not, right? Just to be uber-reasonable and everything, let's just buy into this fantasy for a moment. The very first thing I thought when I first read about it was, "then what?" You have just spent a year underground, drinking cheap wine and eating vacu-packed "food" while some world devastating event has taken place outside. When the doors open you walk out into a world where the top metre of soil is radioactive, the sky is black with ash and ill tempered quail are everywhere (heh, quail, man. They're funny). Or maybe due to some tectonic shifting the shelter entrance is now several hundred metres underwater. So, where and how are you going to live. What will you eat while you wait for your mutant radioactive veggies to maybe grow? What will you do for protein, unless you go the Donner Party route and chow down on those who don't object too much. In the CBS interview mentioned earlier Robert says, "Who is to say that the world won't be fine afterwards? Might have a lot less population, but it could be a very nice world." A very nice world a year after a world devastating catastrophe? Right. Now that's a fantasy.

Anyway... Humouroceros

PS: In the section on global tsunamis the site says. "a megatsunami is meant to refer to a tsunami with an initial wave amplitude (wave height) measured in several tens, hundreds or possibly thousands of metres, potentially reaching up to about a kilometre in height." Actually a thousand metres is a kilometre, so essentially they are saying these waves could be several kilometres in height, approaching a kilometre in height. Good math. And "initial wave amplitude" for gosh sakes. What is that, trying to sound all scientific and everything? I believe that is a term that someone at the Vivos Group pulled out of their dimpled butt.

Also, this whole 2012 Mayan calendar thing. Please. In fact December 2012 is just the end of the Mayan long-count calendar. The following day is the beginning of the next Mayan long-count calendar. Honestly, do the people who buy into this junk wet their pants every December when our currently popular yearly calendar ends? http://www.2012hoax.org/vivos

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