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  • Writer's pictureLuke


The word disaster comes from Greek meaning “Bad star” deriving from the astrology interpretation that catastrophes are caused by the position of the planets. Given the current pandemic making most of the world distance from each other let’s take a step back and look at how bad this ‘star’ really is.

I have thought up a scale to rank disasters and it starts at the Zeroth Degree and getting progressively worse till the Fifth Degree. In this system I would only rank COVID-19 as only maybe a ~0.7 there’s a lot that could be far worse.

Starting with Zeroth Degree, any disaster which causes minor to significant hassle would be in the 0th Degree. This is sort of a bottom end catch all for everything from this current pandemic to burning your dinner. Anything that might make a major impact on civilization but not enough to wipe it out. That’s why I give COVID a .7 it’s definitely worse than a day to day disaster, and being global it ranks higher and localized disasters like volcanoes. However all told COVID might make even a huge impact on civilization but not change our dominance on earth.

The satellite fell while it was being worked on by Lockheed Martin Repairs to the satellite cost $135 million.
NOAA-19 satellite - The satellite fell while it was being worked on by Lockheed Martin Repairs to the satellite cost $135 million.

Making a First degree disaster of course something that threatens human civilization. Humans might continue to live in small pockets and maybe repopulate or be around to see what lifeforms take over earth next but either way we would no longer be the obvious dominant life form on earth. This would be something like an all out nuclear war, depletion of resources, or alien invasion.

passed extinction events - blue bars show the percentage of marine animals apearing to become extinct during given time interval, peaks are evidance of "mass extinction" events.

A Second degree disaster is something that wipes out all human life, but not all life. A scenario where only the hardiest of microbes or the deepest of sea creatures survive. Something like the loss of our atmosphere, meteor strike, or a chain of catastrophic tectonic activity.

The Third would obliterate all life on earth and therefore all known life maybe the sun flares up and boils the oceans off or the earth gets knocked off course and sent out of the solar system to freeze.

The Fourth Degree is where we really start to see some damage. This is where the entire solar system is destroyed there is no hope that any record of humanity or earth survives. This would be where the sun explodes, or we drift too close to a black hole.

The sun expanding to engulf the earth 1AU = the distance to the sun from the earth right now.

Lastly leaving the Fifth Degree one in which the entire universe is destroyed, something fundamental in the laws of physics that lead to a universe where life as we know it is impossible.

The "big crunch" one of the proposed fates of our universe.

Hopefully this helps make the outbreak seem mundane and unremarkable by comparison. For the next few weeks I plan on going down each degree of destruction and talk about how likely it is and what hope if any we have to prevent them. So I’ll see you next week with the maximum destruction, the 5th degree!

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