Weird Ways Science Is Screwed

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The Svalbard Seed Vault is Screwed

Situated amid the arctic tundra, there’s a vault whose contents hold the key to surviving the apocalypse. Guns? Canned goods? Toilet paper? Please, God, let it be toilet paper. No, no, and no. It’s seeds. To be precise, the vault holds nearly a million seeds and grains, comprising 6,000+ species taken from all over the world — so that if/when the end comes, we can revert back to being agriculturists like our prehistoric ancestors, albeit without the dinosaurs.

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In the years since this vault opened, however, the apocalypse has gone from being a fun thought exercise involving out-of-control nanomachines and supervolcanoes to something that’s staring us directly in the face. On the plus side, all those seeds, right?

We guess that's pretty apocalypsy as buildings go, but we're still disappointed there aren't any <i>Mad Max</i> flamethrower guitars.” width=”350″ height=”261″ class=”lazy” data-src=””><span><a target=Landbruks- og matdepartementet/flickrWe guess that’s pretty apocalypsy as buildings go, but we’re still disappointed there aren’t any Mad Max flamethrower guitars.

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Um, no, actually. As it turns out, the seed vault isn’t an impenetrable, indestructible fortress of solitude. Thanks to climate change, the permafrost on the island peninsula where the vault is located, is melting at an accelerated rate that scientists never could’ve predicted. It’s this permafrost that, along with the vault’s air conditioning system, helps to keep the seeds in stasis for when we need them.

“Couldn’t they put in a bigger air conditioning unit?” Maybe, but that’s not going to help much in the long-term. The loss of the surrounding snow, ice, and permafrost could also cause the vault to become structurally unstable, as has already happened to several nearby houses and structures, which have started to wobble as the icy bedrock which they’re anchored to has begun to melt.

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And the vault is melting, by the way. In 2017, melted permafrost water flooded the main entryway into the vault, which damaged a bunch of electrical equipment and forced renovations totaling a cool (literally) $13 million. The seeds were safe the whole time because they’re secured behind a secondary vault door, but that shit is still concerning considering at the current rate, Svalbard is going to be between seven and ten degrees hotter by 2100.

Put it this way; don’t get too attached to carbs.


No-One Can Agree On What To Do With the Last Remaining Samples of Smallpox

On May 8, 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly stood before the world and announced that smallpox — a disease that has plagued humanity since 10,000 BC — had been curb-stomped out of existence.

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