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How long before the lights go out?

  1. Dec 10, 2007 #1
    Hi everybody

    First, apologies if this has been answered somewhere else, haven't found it. If so, just point me towards it.

    Second, I don't know if this is the right place for this question, but I hope so.

    Third, I should now get on to the question.

    What I have been wondering about for some time is the question of how long our technical infrastructure would continue working after a sudden disappearance of humanity. My scenario:

    "Something" happens that wipes out human life on this planet overnight. Maybe some few solitary survivors are still around just to keep the story going and record their experiences. Like me :-). The catastrophe only affects humans, not property is destroyed or damaged, all other life keeps on as normal

    What would I as a lone survivor experience of civilisations infrastructure? What would be working "the day after". How long would it go on working? How long before the lights go out?

    Telecom: How long would I be able to use the cellphone and PSTN network (apart from the question, who would I call?) ? How long would websites stay online?

    Electricity supply: Would it quickly fail if nobody is constantly about to control it? Are there "dead-man buttons" that would shut down nuclear reactors if they are not "pressed" from time to time? Would it fail because there is not enough usage and hence the system would quickly overload?

    Water/Sewage Systems: Any infos on how long before they stop working without supervision?

    Any other infrastructure that would just start falling apart on its own in a short time horizon (of course buildings etc. would over time, I was wondering if there are things that have to be kept up constantly just to stay the way they are, like constantly pumping water out of the ships hull).


    I have tried to search for something like it on the net, but a good search phrase is quite difficult. I usally end up on "aaaa we are all going to die because of nuclear energy" or "the rapture is coming tomorrow" websites...

    Anyway, some thoughts for the Xmas holidays, sure to get a conversation started over the turkey or whatever...

    Thanks for any replies or suggestions....

    bern viking
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2007 #2
    Well, I am sure most of the infrastructure can be automated, even the maintenance part if necessary. But as of now, in the real world I don't really know. You can survive obviously, early man didn't surf the web or watch T.V eh :wink:
    But for the sake of humanity, I sure hope there is Mrs.viking surviving somewhere:smile:
     
  4. Dec 10, 2007 #3

    JasonRox

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    This as a Christmas conversation?!

    Let's just say you'll die shortly after since there are dead humans everywhere and disease will spread like wild fire and you're right in the middle of it.
     
  5. Dec 10, 2007 #4
    If it's an epidemic or something like that, that leaves human carcasses. I am thinking of an alien mass abduction for slavery :biggrin:

    I agree, totally sombre Christmas conversation. Tell me they didn't take Santa at least!
     
  6. Dec 10, 2007 #5
    This sounds alot like that movie that is coming out soon. I forget what its called though.
     
  7. Dec 10, 2007 #6

    wolram

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    Last man on Earth

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  8. Dec 10, 2007 #7
    No. Isn't it like "I Am Legend" or something like that?
     
  9. Dec 10, 2007 #8

    wolram

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  10. Dec 10, 2007 #9
    Why yes, there is a mrs viking, and I'm pretty sure that part of the situation would work without too much infrastructure, thank you.:wink:

    Anyway, the situation I imagined is not so much zombies or rotting carcasses left on earth, but maybe a kind of "post-rapture" situation where apparently the heaven-threshold was set very, very low, so that only I was left back :rofl:

    And the question was more about how long the infrastructure around us would go on working if it was suddenly left on its own. How long before the cell phone antennas switch off, how long before electricity stops flowing, how long before the taps in the bathroom dry out if there is not someone there to keep an eye on them.

    (about xmas suitability: I have a old childrens book about this situation, a little boy wakes up and is the only one left on earth. At first he has a grand time, going in and out of shops (looting!), driving around in fire-engines, flying planes, but then he gets hungry (has to cook himself, there is still gas in the kitchen) and start feeling lonely and afraid... wakes up and it was a dream.... Ah, yes, in the 40ies they had some manly children books :smile: )
     
  11. Dec 10, 2007 #10

    Evo

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    It would really vary from place to place.
     
  12. Dec 10, 2007 #11

    wolram

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    (about xmas suitability: I have a old childrens book about this situation, a little boy wakes up and is the only one left on earth. At first he has a grand time, going in and out of shops (looting!), driving around in fire-engines, flying planes, but then he gets hungry (has to cook himself, there is still gas in the kitchen) and start feeling lonely and afraid... wakes up and it was a dream.... Ah, yes, in the 40ies they had some manly children books )

    Poor kid that must hurt.
     
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