Flash Forward: KABOOM!

The Flash Forward podcast, written and presented by Rose Eveleth, is consistently fascinating. Once a fortnight, Flash Forward visits a different possible scenario for our own future. The epidode lays out the premise with a series of imagined news broadcasts, and then interviews a range of experts to fully explore the likely consequences and ramifications for society and our everyday lives. These potential futures include everything from a world where you knew the exact date you’d die, to one with universal translation devices, or all drugs were legal.

Last month Flash Forward covered a scenario close to the thought experiment behind The Knowledge. ‘Episode 15: KABOOM’ explores what would happen if all the active volcanoes on the Earth were to start erupting at the same time. Obviously the answer is: lots of bad things… But what happens to humans and our planet? Who survives, and how?

Listen to Kaboom here.

And if you liked this, I’d heartily recommend you listen back through their entire backlog. You can also support the continuation of this project on their Patreon page.


Humble Bundle – Survive This

Humble Bundle currently have an amazing offer for their Survive This deal. Every month Humble Bundle offers a collection of related games or books, and this month the theme is  games based on survival and resource utilisation in unforgiving environments. All related to The Knowledge and the topic of starting again from scratch, this bundle offers some great sandbox games. These include titles such as Rust where you need to hone your primitive survival skills like building shelters, hunting, and teamwork with other players to prevail in a wild landscape; and PlanetBase, a strategy game where you must build a successful self-sustaining colony on another world and gather everything you need to survive: collect energy, extract water, grow food and mine metal.

You can choose to pay what you want for this incredible bundle, and you’ll also be supporting worthwhile charities like Action Against Hunger and WaterAid.

The bundle offer runs until 23rd August.

Click here to buy from the Humble Bundle website.



Toward an Encyclopedia Apocalyptica

The PopMatters website has a great new column from Sean Miller, on ‘Toward an Encyclopaedia Apocalyptica‘. He takes as his starting point Kathryn Schulz’s Pulitzer-Prize-Winning article in the New Yorker about the next big earthquake to hit the Pacific North-West for a really thoughtful piece on the possibility of civilisation collapse and our cultural fixation on the notion of apocalypse.

Miller talks about The Knowledge, and muses on James Lovelock’s writings on what might be the best way for preserving crucial human understanding, and the ideal medium for storage. How do we know what we know, and how can you explain what experiments or investigations people would need to do to demonstrate truths for themselves?

Read the full article here

Digital sundial

Chapter 12 of The Knowledge explains how you can go right back to first principles to work out how to tell the time for yourself. Planting a stick into the ground can serve as a simple sundial, with the hour of the day indicated as the shadow revolves around with the movement of the sun. This chronological technology has been used by humanity for thousands of years.

But now, sundials have been brought right up into the 21st century.

Julien Coyne has invented a sundial that indicates the time as a digital display. This astounding example of ingenuity is based on some very clever mathematical design and 3D printing of the gnomon. Once orientated correctly, the sunlight passes through the precisely-calculated slits in the gnomon to project a shadow that indicates the time as a digital display.

Watch the digital sundial in action below, and buy your own on Etsy!


Real-life Mad Max escapes desert by building working motorbike from his broken-down car

Is this the greatest example of survival through ingenuity and hacking skills?

In 1993, the Frenchman Emile Leray set-off on an adventure, driving from the city of Tan Ta to cross the Moroccan desert. Unfortunately, while he was off-roading he crashed the car and became stranded in the middle of the unforgiving desert. With no hope of rescue and slim chances of making it out alive on foot, Leray was facing certain death.

Lucking, Leray had just the right skill-set to survive, and sat down to solve the problem at hand himself. At the time, he was a 43-year-old former electrician, and set-about constructing a makeshift motorbike by cannibalising the parts from his wrecked car.

Leray first removed the bodywork of the Citreon 2CV to use as a shelter against sandstorms. He had only trousers and a short-sleeve shirt so turned his socks into improvised sleeves to protect his arms from the intense sun. Working with only the simple tools he had with him — no drills, no blowtorch or welding equipment — he stripped out the car’s engine and gearbox, and remounted them in a rudimentary chassis. He used a drum to turn the backwheel by simple friction, and the mechanics of the situation meant he could only run the car engine in reverse.

After twelve days of work, and his water supply down to the last half a litre, Leray finally completed his makeshift motorbike. Heading back out from the desert he was picked up by the Moroccan police and taken to safety.

Such an incredible story of ingenuity and resourcefulness!

But the worst part of the whole affair..? The Moroccan police slapped him with a fine as his car registration documentation no longer applied to the jury-rigged motorcycle!


  • The chassis was reduced to the central part, the front and back (longerons) have been taken off
  • Roller transmission: the brake drum is in vertical alignment with the back wheel, the rotation direction requires to drive in reverse, at a maximum of 20 km/h
  • The right drum is blocked so that the differential distributes all the power on the left
  • The handlebar is made of the lifter, emptied from its mechanism. On this solid piece are fixed the clutch command and the two electrical contacts: power supply for the ignition and starter
  • The front steering wheel is the only one to benefit from suspension
  • The filling pipe will be transformed into a stand, essential, considering the weight of the machine
  • The seat was made from the extremity of the back bumper wrapped in the fabric of the dashboard, assembled with orange adhesive for the best effect


Source of information: Vintage News

More images available on Naruhodo’s imgur

Credit for translation: JonhDksn

How to survive an apocalypse with just the contents of your handbag

handbagPart of my motivation behind writing The Knowledge was to explore how people through history have been amazingly ingenious or innovative in hacking stuff together and finding solutions to great challenges. For example, I describe how the inhabitants of the city Gorazde were able to jury-rig rudimentary water wheels for electricity, or how during WWII people adapted cars to run on wood as fuel.

But faced with a hypothetical global catastrophe how well would you fare? How could you survive an apocalypse with just the contents of an average handbag or backpack…?

Here’s an article I worked on with the Mirror newspaper, discussing all the weird and wonderful uses that simple, everyday items can be put towards. What ingenious way could you use an empty bottle of water or a pair of glasses, or even a condom or tampon, to save your life..? Even if you never need them in this way, the article will still hopefully change forevermore how you look at these everyday items…

Read the full article on The Mirror website


WrappedWrapped is a superb computer-generated video exploring what New York may come to look like if plants and trees were ever to take over again. This is an epic piece of rewinding imagination! The short film was created by a team of students, Roman Kaelin, Falko Paeper and Florian Wittmann, at the Institute of Animation and Special Effects at Germany’s Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg. And a lot of the aesthetic is similar to the opening chapter of ‘The Knowledge’ or Alan Weisman’s ‘The World Without Us‘.

The film begins with a microscopic tour of a decomposing dead rat on the pavement, zooming out to broader and broader scale, and faster and faster time, as the vegetation invasion unfolds. And make sure you watch right through to the end, otherwise you’ll miss the twist in the tale [tail…? ;o) ]


Wrapped from Crave on Vimeo.

How to survive virtually any apocalyptic scenario

Target Sports USA have released an infographic on how to survive various kinds of apocalyptic scenario (probably best not to ask why…), and it’s very nicely done!

Covering everything from the plausible-but-hopefully-unlikely Plague to the impossible-but-great-fun-to-imagine-anyway Zombie Outbreak, via Asteroid Impact and Ecological Disaster, this infographic reaches across the whole spectrum of possibilities.

Each scenario offers tips on what you might be able to do to prepare for such an eventuality, as well as your priorities for immediate survival and then thriving in the longer term.

So perfect fodder for the thought experiment behind The Knowledge… 

Click here to see the full infographic