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5 Apocalypse Scenarios Governments Have Actually Addressed

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From a Zombie invasion to a March Madness app infecting all our cellphones, governments are preparing for the worst.

1. A Zombie Invasion

In a creative move meant to draw attention to how to deal with more likely emergencies, last May the Centers for Disease Control posted tips for how to successfully survive a zombie invasion. The timing was perfect: apocalypse discussion was already popular since an End Times pastor had announced the world would end on May 21, and a more realistic danger, hurricane season, was starting on June 1.

"If you prepare for the zombie apocalypse, you'll be prepared for all hazards," said CDC spokesman Dave Daigle.

And while the use of the brain-eating undead might seem like a cheap ploy to get people to the site, it worked. Every major news source reported the story, and it generated so much traffic that it crashed the website. While the topic was funny, the article itself contained information relevant to surviving any disaster, including what you need for an emergency kit, the importance of a family plan, and the CDC’s role in containing diseases (even zombie- borne ones.)

2. The Mayan Calendar

Calendar image via Shutterstock

Perhaps taking a page out of the CDC’s book, this year NASA released a video reassuring everyone the world will not end when the Mayan calendar does, on Dec 21, 2012. Even some more rational people have been intrigued by this end of the world prediction, citing the Mayan’s accurate prediction of comets hundreds of years in the future. Interest had been piqued thanks to media coverage, the use of the supposed apocalypse in advertising, and of course the blockbuster movie 2012.

In the video, Don Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Objects Program Office at NASA explains some of the misinformation surrounding the Mayan calendar, including the fact that it doesn’t actually end on the 21st, comparing that date to our own December 31, with a new calendar beginning the next day. A Frequently Asked Questions page at nasa.gov also reassures the public that there is no wayward planet, asteroid, or polar shift about to destroy Earth as we know it.

3. The Collapse of the United States

Wyoming sign image via Shutterstock

In his new book, Senator Jim DeMint states, “We are in serious trouble and very close to economic collapse. This is not hyperbole; Americans have never been this close to losing all the freedom, prosperity, and opportunity that generations of citizens and soldiers have fought and died to give us.”

Combine statements like that with the severe economic problems in Europe, as well as the divisive political rhetoric in America, and it is no wonder that people are starting to think about what to do in case the country collapsed. In February, the Wyoming House of Representatives narrowly defeated a bill that would have created a committee to set up contingency plans in case the Federal Government collapsed. The “doomsday bill,” defeated by just 30-27, concentrated mostly on setting up Wyoming’s own currency to be distributed if the dollar had no government to back it, but also addressed food and energy preparedness.

And although it was removed before the final vote, some lawmakers jokingly added an amendment saying that Wyoming should consider buying their own fighter jets and an aircraft carrier. When asked for comment, the Governor pointed out that a carrier would need a larger lake.

4. Global Warming

EPA/Nicky Park/Landov

Island governments are very worried about rising sea levels. The melting icecaps are a problem for all small island nations for obvious reasons, but perhaps none more so than the country of Kiribati. Located in the center of the Pacific Ocean, this small island is barely above sea level, and rising ocean levels are already putting large chunks of it under water. The government of Kiribati is making arrangements to buy land in other countries, particularly Fiji, where they can slowly move their population of 100,000 before it is too late.

The Maldives are also in danger. In 2009, right before the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, President Mohamed Nasheed drew attention to the island’s plight by holding a cabinet meeting underwater. He has also spearheaded the drive to get other countries to commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

5. Technology Collapsing

sgm / Shutterstock.com

While many of the items on this list are jokes or hypotheticals, the U.S. government takes a terrorist attack on the nation’s technology infrastructure very seriously. If the internet and cellphone capability collapsed, the country would be thrown into untold chaos. Already email accounts belonging to Cabinet members have been hacked into and various other secure areas of the government's computer network have hundreds of thousands of attacks a day.

So in February of 2010, the government actually ran a war game for this probable eventuality. The scenario was incredibly detailed and highly probable. Cell phones went down after sports fans across America downloaded a March Madness app. The power grid collapsed. They threw in bombs in Tennessee and Kentucky and a hurricane in the Gulf too because if you’re playing a war game, why not go all out?

Broadcast on CNN and led by former head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, the exercise was an interesting lesson, but perhaps worryingly did not result in a grand plan for how to handle just such a situation.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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