Antarctic Treaty comes up for review
is the last remaining unspoilt wilderness; untouched by the massive
industrialisation common everywhere else on the planet. It covers an
area of 13.7 million sq km (5.3 million sq miles) and is covered by
an ice sheet 4 km (2.5 miles) deep. It has no human inhabitants, other
than a small number of scientists in research stations.
icy continent is governed by the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, which
came into effect in 1961. This was signed by Argentina, Australia, Chile,
France, New Zealand, Norway, the UK, Belgium, Japan, South Africa, the
USA and Russia. The first seven of these countries have historic claims
to the continent (none of which are generally recognised) and the Treaty
preserves the status quo, neither recognising nor repudiating the old
claims, but forbidding their expansion in any way. The terms of the
Treaty also forbid the assertion of new claims.
of a hole in the ozone layer, and other concerns, led to the addition
of a new environmental protocol agreed in 1991. This entered force in
1998. It was intended to protect Antarctica's environment and ecosystems,
and included a total ban on the exploitation of mineral and energy resources,
as well as strict regulation of pollution and other damaging activities.
The protocol is open for review in 2048, exactly 50 years after it was implemented.*
changed in the last half century. Earth's population is over 50% larger, placing a substantial drain on the Earth's resources which
has become alarmingly obvious by now. Metal and mineral supplies continue to be an issue, even with large-scale recycling systems in place.* Despite objections from environmentalists, there is general consensus
among the international community that some limited exploitation of
Antarctica should be permitted, within certain specially controlled areas.
Over the next few years, a new treaty is drawn up with modified clauses, though disputes continue over territorial boundaries.
significant logistical challenges to mining and mineral extraction in
the region – such as the isolation, extreme cold, rough seas and thick
ice sheet. However, new technologies look set to mitigate these problems,
including the use of robots, heavy automation and alternative methods
of drilling. In addition, climate change and the melting of ice is making
it possible to exploit some previously inaccessible areas of the western
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biostasis is available
has continued to progress exponentially, transforming society in ways
that were only recently considered science fiction.** Towards the end of this decade, it's becoming possible to actually "freeze"
people in a form of suspended animation. This is achieved by shutting
down their metabolism and preserving cell structures, using a complex arrangement of nanobots.
machines have been around for a while now, in a variety of roles. They
are already a staple of military hardware, medical
devices and general-purpose
computing. This latest generation reaches a new level of sophistication.
Networked together in the trillions, they are self-guided through the
bloodstream and into every cell. Here, they can block the molecular
machinery of metabolism and tie structures together with stabilising
cross-links, held firmly in place. As water is expelled and replaced
with preservative fluid, nanobots pack themselves solidly around each cell, preventing any damage or deterioration.*
patient has been fully stabilised in this way, they are essentially
frozen in time. They can be kept in this condition for years, if necessary.
To a casual observer, they would appear cold and dead.
leads to a number of useful applications. In medicine, for example,
it provides the deepest possible anaesthesia, giving surgeons unlimited
time to work. It can be used for medical emergencies in remote locations,
stabilising a patient's condition until help arrives. In space travel
it helps future astronauts with long journeys, avoiding problems of
boredom and/or food supplies. It can be used in covert spying missions,
where an individual might be required to lie in a restricted space for
extended periods of time. More commonly, it can be used by citizens
as a life extension technology, or for personal financial reasons.
is reversed with cell repair machines – so only very minor damage is
done, without any lasting harm. Nanobots enter the patient's tissues
and remove the "packing" around cells, replacing it with water.
The cross-links are then removed; any damage to structures is easily
repaired. Salt, ATP and blood sugar levels are then restored. Finally,
the metabolic machinery is unblocked and the patient's body rapidly
comes to life again.
near-Earth asteroid 2007 VK184 makes a close pass
– measuring 130m in diameter – has a 1 in 3,000 chance of hitting the
Earth on this date. It was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in
2007. Ignoring the acceleration of the asteroid due to the Earth's gravity,
its velocity relative to the Earth at the intersection of their orbits
would be 15.63 km/s.
an impact were to occur, it would likely break into several pieces in
the atmosphere. However, these individual chunks of rock may still be
large enough to cause widespread devastation, if landing in populated
areas. For comparison, the Tunguska
event of 1908 was thought to have been caused by an object measuring
30-50m. This was large enough to produce an airburst equivalent to thousands
of Hiroshima bombs.
Small-Body Database Browser