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GK- How We End? Print
August 2013

This article discusses exit plans on the course of nature.  The theme was prompted by a university distinguished astronomy professor (Chris Impey) and is about the end for all of us in a finite timeframe (How it ends).  It is not fiction. 

o Before we think about how we end, when did we begin?  Based on fossils unearthed in Peking in 1929, human existed about 750000 years ago but other mammals did exist a lot earlier.  How long will we live?  The natural age may be 120 but the average life expectancy for New Zealand is only 79.  We want to live longer and have been researching microbiology to find out how we can beat aging and building bionic men and women.  When will we be ageless? 

Let us change our attention to the Sun which gave birth to the Earth in the first place.  The Sun is about 4.5 billion years old and is half way through its Hydrogen to Helium fission process.  It will become hotter over the next few billion years and eventually become a red giant and then a white dwarf.  When the Sun sneezes, the Earth catches cold.  When the Sun sweats, the Earth catches fever.  When will the Earth die of sunburn?  Shall we move to another place in the solar system that is cooler?  Unfortunately the habitable zone in any solar system is very narrow and we do not have many choices other than moving to another younger star.  Fortunately we know that the habitable zone in the Milky Way is quite large, extending from 230 to 290 thousand light years from the core.  We are located at 270 thousand light years and so there are plenty of rooms to move.  We have measured the radiation spectrum of Earth from Mars and know that our brothers and sisters would equally need plenty of Oxygen to breathe, CO2 to form a greenhouse, and Ozone to filter out harmful ultraviolet from reaching us.  There is hope.

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o A scientist Frank Drake did an estimation in 1961 and came up with somewhere between 1000 and 100 million civilisations in the Milky Way.  NASA has since sent several path finders out. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977.  They have done 36 years of flying (by 2013) and have got close to the edge of the solar system that is 2 light years from the Sun.  Voyagers have been flying at 1/18th of the speed of light!  When will we find the first habitable star or civilisation?

In the meantime, Milky’s biggest neighbour called Andromeda is approaching us at a speed of 300km/s.  This is about 1/1000th of the speed of light and we will find a new home before Andy arrives in 3 billion years time.  Our scientists have said the collision is definite and it is just a matter of time.  During the event, we will either be ejected out of the galaxy or drawn in towards the core.  Either way, we will die of homelessness. 

Business Reflections

1. Business has existed in the Western world for about 500 years only.  The average Fortune500 company lasts 50 years.  The natural company life is 200 years.  How long can our own business last?  Does it end with us personally?   A Business Week article has prescribed 4 efforts for longevity.  They are cash independent (not relying on borrowing), learn and adapt all the time, have a strong identity, and very tolerant of everything.

2. Even newer than everything above are modern computers. Whether it is micro-molecular studies, bionic modelling, or Andromeda simulations, they all want computing power and endless amount of it.  We can supply!