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

Apocalypse-proof Kindle

The conceit behind The Knowledge is that it is the single book that condenses down the kernels of all the most important understanding and know-how you would want to preserve if all else were lost. The premise is that this book serves as a quick-start guide to rebooting civilisation itself and enabling survivors of some hypothetical apocalypse to accelerate their way through history a second time around.

But of course this is impossible. If you were to have any hope of preserving enough vital knowledge and accelerating recovery you’d want more than a single paperback, and lots of diagrams and step-by-step practical guides as well.

Using the traditional technologies explained in The Knowledge — words printed onto bundles of sheets of pulped-up trees — you would need an entire library, its shelves stuffed with practical books, to provide enough preserved information. (One of the things I was most smug about whilst researching for The Knowledge was when I realised that I could explain how to make your own paper from scratch, your own ink, and how to construct a rudimentary printing press — it’s almost as if contained within the pages of the book it contains the genetic instructions for it’s own reproduction. It is an inanimate object that can replicate itself like an organism. In principle, and with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, only a single copy of the book would need to survive the apocalypse, and it tells you how to make endless copies for everyone that needs one).

The problem would be how on Earth would you preserve this huge bulk of paper books over long periods of time, or have enough such libraries dotted around the world to have one near enough to any surviving community (see the articles here on The History of the Total Book, and other Similar Projects). But with modern technology, we are now released from this traditional limitation. Nowadays you can buy, for next to no money at all, a Kindle or other e-reader device with memory to store 10,000 books.

You can hold an entire library in the palm of your hand.

If you really wanted to, you could load a copy of The Knowledge, along with thousands of other practical guides (see the book’s bibliography for a complete list of resources, many free to download), onto a single Kindle and stash it in a safe place, just in case…

But if civilisation ever did collapse, and the grid went down, you’d risk the pathos of having the world’s information saved in the palm of your hand but may struggle to recharge the device and actually access it all (the advantage of a paper-based book is that it requires no supporting technologies to access the information, save your own eyes).

The solution would be to create your own apocalypse-proof Kindle. Hardened, and with integrated solar panels so that it could recharge itself indefinitely if the grid ever went down.

And this is exactly what I’ve made. Working with Max and Dan of the Demand Energy Equality initiative I’ve modded and upgraded a cheap second-hand Kindle to help safeguard human knowledge.

Andreas Pettersson_CROPI started with an old 3rd generation Kindle, as this model offers a proper keyboard and does not have a vulnerable touch-screen. I also think the read-back voice functionality gives my finished device a wonderful feel of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! The solar panels themselves are monocrystalline photovoltaic cells, which were reclaimed from a closed-down solar panel factory. I connected together the individual PV cells into two 2×3 arrays using standard tabbing wire. These were attached to the outside of a fold-open case using EVA plastic sheets and a heat gun. Finally, the fragile silicon wafer solar cells are protected with rigid panels of UV-treated polycarbonate, again bonded using EVA. A bit of wire-stripping and soldering, and all the electronics were connected to the mini-USB charging port of the Kindle.

And voila!

A store of the most vital human knowledge, preserved in a highly portable form, and capable of keeping itself recharged for generations…

Asteroid Day 2016

Asteroid Day is coming around again this June 30th (see my post on the first Asteroid Day and the launch event I participated in at the Science Museum), raising awareness of the hazard posed by objects impacting the Earth. To warm you up, here’s Bill Nye, who joined me in signing the statement, on what it could mean if we do get struck. Ctrl-Alt-Delete for civilisation indeed, but how could the survivors go about rebooting civilisation again afterwards…?


How to make your own sandwich

Here’s a video of an inspirational project run by Andy George, where he makes his own sandwich. From scratch. It cost him $1,500 and took six months, as he went right back to basics for every element of the meal. He grew his own wheat, ground to flour and baked the bread, extracted salt from seawater, milked a cow for cheese and butter, and killed a chicken. This is a brilliant example of peering into the fundamentals of everyday life actually works and links very nicely into The Knowledge. Have a watch of the incredible video here, and be sure to explore George’s other How to Make Everything videos on his YouTube channel.

(Also see my post on Sarah Bearchell’s wonderful project in working with school children to make their breakfast from scratch)

Phone call to the 14th century

Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a slightly older radio show, but if you’ve not heard it already it is certainly worth a listen! The Kasper Hauser Comedy Podcast plays with the idea of how much useful knowledge you could meaningfully communicate to someone from the fourteenth century in just one-minute of a time-travelling phone call… This topic of encapsulating key knowledge links very strongly to the themes of The Knowledge, and is absolutely hilarious!

Listen here



Ernest Journal 4

The latest issue of the beautifully-produced Ernest Journal is now out. And it includes an article by me on how to make glass from scratch. As I explain in The Knowledge, glass has been utterly crucial for the building of our modern lives. We use this wonder material not just for windows and wine glasses, but also for all the tools for understanding how the world works: grinding lenses for the microscope and telescope, making test tubes for chemistry, and the thermometer and barometer for studying temperature and pressure. The three main ingredients for glass can in principle all be collected off the same beach — sand for silica, seaweed for soda, and chalk, coral or seashells for lime — the ultimate Robinson Crusoe experiment!

You can subscribe to Ernest here


Handbuch für den Neustart der Welt

© Arno Declaire
© Arno Declaire

As announced back in September, The Knowledge has been adapted for the theatre. The book (‘Handbuch für den Neustart der Welt’ in the German translation) has been dramatised by Jessica Glause, and premiered at the Volks theatre in Munich on Friday.  Details of performances here. The photos of the production look incredible, with impressive props and very imaginative costumes and set design.

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