Ferronautas: Exploring Mexico’s abandoned railways

Ivan_Puig_and_Andre_s_Padilla_Domene_SEFT_1_in_tezontle_mine_webOne of the topics I discuss in the opening chapters of The Knowledge is how quickly our asphalt roads would deteriorate after a collapse of civilisation, and so why it might be much easier for long-distance travel and trade in a post-apocalyptic world to use the abandoned railway tracks. Two artists have completed a fascinating exploration project along these lines.

Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene describe themselves as Los Ferronautas (from ferrocarriles, from ‘railway’ in Spanish) and spent 2010 and 2011 travelling along the rusting railways of rural Mexico, and the modern ruins scattered around them. In the second half of the 19th century, the Mexican government partnered with British companies to build a railway line to connect Mexico City with the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the world. But now this historic railway infrastructure lies in ruins, much of it abandoned due to the privatisation of the railway system in 1995. It was deemed simply unprofitable to continue running the passenger services, and lines became cut off and whole communities isolated.

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WikiReader_PocketWonderful on-line information resources like Wikipedia are only useful if your computer or mobile device has an active internet connection to access them. And if civilisation were ever to collapse, such vast reserves of human knowledge would evaporate within days as blackouts hit the servers and the internet collapses. This ingenious little device offers the perfect solution.

WikiReader is a compact handheld device that provides instant access to Wikipedia no matter where you are, and without needing any connection to the internet. The integral SD card stores the text of three million articles, and regular updates to this database can be downloaded for free. The monochrome display is easy to read, and the touch screen interface allows you to scroll through articles with the stroke of a finger, or follow hyperlinks with a simple tap. You can browse through at your leisure or find particular keywords using the dedicated Search button. History and Random buttons are also included. The ultra-low-power system means you can run it for months before needing to recharge the internal AAA batteries. WikiReader is compact and lightweight, perfect for keeping with you for looking up things while you read or travel, and can be slipped into a bug-out bag.

Buy WikiReader here

Audiobook special offer: 50% DISCOUNT

audiobook special offerJune Is National Audiobook Month, and to celebrate Tantor Audio are running an audiobook special offer through the month. Throughout June, The Knowledge audiobook will be discounted 50% on their website. The audiobook is unabridged and available as either audio CDs or MP3s. It is narrated by the remarkable John Lee, who has also narrated some of my favourite novels by Alistair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton. You can listen to a free sample of the audiobook here.

A wake-up call, encouraging us to leave our comfort zone and learn the basics of caring for ourselves in a disaster and it’s aftermath.
— Mixed Media Reviews

Post apocalyptic diorama

post apocalyptic dioramaLast September I found myself gazing at the sunset over the London skyline. I was on the roof of Peckham’s multi-storey car park. There’s a multiplex cinema at the front, and the top three floors are home to a summer pop-up bar and sculpture show. The thought struck me that my next diorama project should be a ruin – a post apocalyptic diorama – and why not choose the very building I’m standing on…? My art practice employs architectural model-making to create photographic narratives and the idea of an overgrown but recognisable (at least to the people of Peckham) future ruin appealed. So here is my large-scale diorama of a post-apocalyptic Peckam…

Guest post by Nick Cobb

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How to reinstate global communications

IMG_4458 x_CroppedIf our modern civilisation ever were to collapse – taking with it global communication technologies like the internet, satellites, cell phones and undersea cables – with the right knowledge it wouldn’t be too hard to reconstruct from scratch the means for communicating around the world. All you need is a radio set not much bigger than a couple of shoe boxes and a wire antenna strung between two trees. And the basic building block for electronics and reinstating long-distance radio communications, but still something you could build yourself, is the triode vacuum tube. Here’s how…

Guest post by Allen Hundley

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Rugged vehicles

camper van rugged vehicle

My greatest concern, come the apocalypse, is how on Earth I’m going to transport all my looted groceries home from Sainsburys without my yoghurts getting punctured by falling debris. I don’t actually know how to drive, but I’m relying on the fact that the apocalypse will happen before I need to learn – and if these rugged vehicles are sufficiently big and ugly I’ll smash out my own roads, dammit. With the help of these beauties, *nothing* need stand in my way.

Guest post by Leila Johnston


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Video of Royal Institution event

On 8th May I gave a large public lecture about The Knowledge at the venerable Royal Institution. Although in a feat of forgetfulness I’d managed to leave my laptop on the tube on the way to the venue, the event went well and involved a number of demonstrations, including EXPLODING UNDERPANTS..! Watch the video of the event below, including the interview with Daily Telegraph journalist Tom Chivers and the Q&A with the audience. The themes of the book were also discussed after the public lecture on Twitter for a #RiChat, which is available on Storify to read through if you missed it. See also this list of upcoming events about The Knowledge.