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Seven Episodes in: ‘Salvation’ and the last days

“I get to decide how I spend my last days.” Jillian storms off after her boyfriend, Liam, reveals the details of the work that he is doing at Tanz Industries to save the world. These are details that only 41 Americans at the Pentagon know and just a few outside of the Pentagon. She’s angry because Liam has revealed this information after about a month of knowing which coincides with a month into their relationship, and he made the decision for her.

“I get to decide how I spend my last days.” What Jillian doesn’t get, and she’s not the only one, is that these are our last days. We don’t have any more than we have. Whether it’s one because someone decides to shoot us or 146 because of an impending asteroid strike or 186 when the asteroid was just discovered or it’s a year or five years or 20 years, these are all our last days.

We don’t know how many days we have here; even if we did, it shouldn’t change anything. We should be living our lives like today is one of our last days. It’s certainly the last Jan. 31, 2019, I’ll ever see. If you look at your calendar, it’s the last date with that number designation that you’ll ever see. No one wants to face their mortality. We have to plan for our future even if there’s the possibility that it never happens, but these are our last days.

“I get to decide how I spend my last days.” Yes, you, too, get to decide how you spend your last days. Today is your last day. Tomorrow is your last day. Three days from now is your last day. Maybe you have more or fewer, you don’t know. The only thing that you do know is that these are your last days and you choose how you’re going to spend them. Spend them with friends, spend them with family. Spend them making life better for the rest of the world. Then when someone or something tells you your time is up, you won’t have to worry about getting mad at someone you love because they withheld a truth from you, especially if that truth is about the number of days left for the rest of the planet.

For more about our last days, check out the essay “The Last Good Day” in “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories.”

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Four episodes in: ‘Salvation’ and the MVP

Now at over 7.5 billion people the world’s population is staggering large. It’s an incomprehensible number; as people, we aren’t equipped to understand what that number means. Now, imagine having to whittle that number down to 160 people who would carry on the human race on Mars or elsewhere in space. That is one of the premises of the series “Salvation.” According to the show, 160 people is the minimum viable population to ensure that the species can continue.

In order for this small number to work, the chosen travelers would need to be genetically diverse, fertile, and heterosexual. The population would need to include 80 men and 80 women. There’s a good chance that marriages would need to be arranged and monitored as time went on in order to prevent in-breeding.

Engineers skilled in spaceship repairs, survivalists with skills in establishing camps and places to live, and doctors skilled in combat medicine would be some of the people the program could consider. Creative types may be desirable for their ability to solve problems in unique ways, but they would need to have more than just their artistic skills.

With this set of criteria, old people and children wouldn’t make the cut. Poorly educated people wouldn’t get on the ship. People who claim a sexual identity, other than hetero, would be left behind. Those with genetic diseases or genetic disease history in their families wouldn’t be able to take the trip. If it would be a true choosing of the best of the best, every person would face a battery of tests that would eliminate him or her or allow that person to move on to the next level.

The question that this type of plan demands is how would the influential people who don’t meet the criteria be kept off the ship. Would the inventor be allowed to travel, regardless of any other quality? Would the president of the U.S. or the ruler of the country be allowed to go? If this ark were a last-ditch effort to save the human race and Earth was facing destruction, would the billion-dollar investor have a spot on the ark with no further testing? Would a country like the U.S. reach out to other countries to find the best people to put on the ark, or would it only save Americans?

Another thing to consider is that genetic diversity would entail finding people that don’t resemble each other. This would make everyone uncomfortable since human beings like to hang with people who resemble themselves. It would also make it possible for people on the ark to form groups of like with like, which could sabotage the genetic diversity of the group. “Salvation” has a group of number crunchers on a committee with an unknown science fiction writer to provide the heart; It’ll be interesting to see how they decide who lives and who dies.

So, how would you go about selecting 160 people to board a space ark? If you were able to save 1600 people in ten arks, how would you divvy them up? Assuming there were a clear 160 best and 160 second best would you mix them or would you keep the best with the best and the second best with the second best and so on?

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Three Episodes in: ‘Salvation’ Decreases Faith in Humanity

Three episodes into “Salvation” and I can’t believe how stupid the characters are. The premise of the show is there is a planet killing asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. It has a 97 percent chance of colliding with our planet creating and extinction level event. The U.S. government has known about it for three months, and ordered a rocket from the Tanz company to send up a gravity tractor. The rocket has to retrofitted to work for what the government wants, and in testing, the retrofits don’t work right and the rocket blows up. The gravity tractor is out as far as the government is concerned.

In the meantime, a college student’s algorithm found the asteroid. The student informs his professor, who disappears. The student gets close to Darius Tanz, head of the Tanz company, and tells him what’s going on. Tanz contacts the Department of Defense. Both the student and Tanz get added to the secret group that is trying to find ways to deal with the asteroid. With the gravity tractor out, one of the men has proposed running the IO satellite into the asteroid to knock it off course.

The student and Tanz point out that doing so won’t move the asteroid. It would instead create a lot of meteorites that would rain down on Earth with no telling where they would land. The man, who proposed the idea, concedes the point and asks if Tanz has a better idea. Tanz proposes the invention of an electromagnetic engine which doesn’t exist. They agree on that solution for the moment.

Flash forward to the next meeting because the president is getting nervous and wants an update. The man, who proposed the ramming of the asteroid, comes back with the same proposal, but this time, he’s done the calculations: the created meteors would rain down on Russia, China and Korea killing an estimated 1.4 billion people. They have two windows. The first is in seven days, the next is in 60 days. Rather than give Tanz and his team 60 days to build and perfect their EM engine, they decide to go with the first window because it gives them two chances to get it right.

What? The false logic here is that they have two chances. Unless they have two satellites in orbit around IO, they have only one chance. Waiting for the second window wouldn’t change anything. If they didn’t get it right the first time, there is no second chance. The IO satellite would be careening into space, and there’s no backup. You have one satellite and one chance. Wait for the second window.

However, there’s a larger problem. Russia and China have active space programs. Chances are they’re going to find out about this asteroid and what the U.S. did. If they do, there’s a good chance, they’ll see the destruction of the asteroid as an act of war and decide to use their missiles to blow the U.S. up. The political wonks and military people should understand that’s the natural reaction of any person in power and that this secret asteroid information is going to get out. At the very least, some spy is going to find out. More likely someone’s going to let something slip.

If colliding with the asteroid is the only choice, this group needs to make sure it has a plan to evacuate the countries that are going to be affected before it decides on this plan of action. That means the information about the asteroid needs to be brought before the United Nations and nations need to know what’s coming. Even more importantly, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on “smart” people or space. In fact, with the defunding of NASA, the U.S. isn’t the leader in space exploration any more. The asteroid could be used to bring countries together; instead of as a way to fill the American ego.

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The Moral Implications of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

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