How the World WILL End – NOT According to the Mayans

Happy December 21, Mayan Apocalypse day.

OK, so no one likely actually believed that today was it based on a 5 thousand year old calendar from a long-ago (but quite advanced) civilization. In the spirit of almost everyone blogging about the end of the world today we at PLUS blog figured we’d follow suit and share this post about how the Earth is likely to end at some distant point on the calendar, likely much farther out than 5 thousand years. I encourage you to check out the full post, if only for the really cool pictures. From the blog:

Here Comes the Sun…Seriously

Whether or not the Earth is able to outlast the extremely improbable events listed above, we do know for sure that one day, all life on Earth will likely cease to exist. Ironically, the object that currently sustains life on our planet – the sun – will also be the object that will end it. Allow me to explain.

Currently, our sun is about half-way through its primary life cycle. As mentioned before, stars are so massive that they are able to virtually hold themselves together by the force of their own gravity; however, as the fuel within the sun is slowly converted to light and sent out into space, it will inevitably lose mass, and therefore, gravity. The result of this is the gradual expansion of the sun into what is called a “red giant”. In this phase, the radius of the sun will increase 250 times – well beyond Earth’s current orbit. The loss of gravity, however, could also mean that the orbits of the planets will drift further and further away from the sun, essentially sparing them (except Mercury, which will likely be swallowed by the sun).

Unfortunately, none of that will matter. In the past billion years, the sun has become about 10% brighter and its surface temperature has increased as a result of the natural processes described above. It is likely that billions of years before the sun starts turning into a red giant, the surface temperature on Earth will increase to 60° C (140º F), causing our oceans to virtually evaporate into space. At that point, life on Earth will no longer be able to exist in the natural environment. We will be better off than Venus though – the sun will be so intense that its atmosphere will be blown off into space.

Should you be worried? Hardly: the earliest that the “ocean evaporation” scenario is estimated to begin is in around 500 million years. Still, this means that we came a little late to the party because we could now be inhabiting Earth during the last 10% of its habitable life. There is a bright side, however – assuming that humans spread throughout the galaxy long before this starts to happen, we would probably have the technology to come back to Earth in cool spaceships or something. So, billions of years from now, after the sun has thrown off its outer layers to form a nebula, a human could stand on a cold, rocky Earth, look up into the sky, and see it filled with an image just like this:

For more potential cosmic doomsday causes visit the *Abraham Thinkin’* blog.

Thank you for reading, and enjoy the Holiday season. Give someone a hug today.

The Math of Charitable Giving

A recent post at one of our favorite Fall Through the Cracks Friday resources, the Freakonomics Blog, caught our eye this week – probably because of our ongoing Sandy Relief Campaign, where for every $1 you donate it can turn into up to $6!

Back to FTTCF – and a look at the economics of charitable giving. From the post:

As any 10-year-old can tell you, multiplication is commutative: 2 x $70 is the same as 70 x $2.

 

But not in charitable giving, it turns out. Making two donations of $70 is a good deal more valuable to charity than making 70 donations of $2.

 

The reason lies in the fixed transaction costs. Many charities (unavoidably) get charged a fee for each deposit into their bank account. So two large donations create only two dollops of that fee, whereas 70 smaller donations attract 70 dollops. That fee might be $0.25 per transaction. So if the $140 is given in two donations, less than 1 percent of the two donations gets lost in transit between the donor and the charity; if the $140 is given in 70 donations, 12.5 percent gets lost in transit; and if $140 were given in 140 donations of $1, fully 25 percent would fail to reach the charity. Of course, if you gave 1400 donations of only $0.25 each, nothing would reach the charity at all.

 

As a friendly reminder, 100% of donations to the PLUS Foundation for Sandy relief go to the food banks the Foundation is working with.

Reducing Email by Eliminating “Reply All”

Happy Friday PLUS Blog readers! We appreciate you stopping by the blog during your busy workday.

This week’s Fall Through the Cracks Friday feature focuses on the “busy” workday and the amount of time we all deal with emails. Several companies are now offering solutions to reduce email quantity by deactivating the “Reply All” feature. While that feature can, on occasion, be quite helpful I’m sure we’ve all seen times when it was abused and your inbox is suddenly flooded with messages of limited value. A recent article on Bloomberg Business Week provides a solution:

When Gene Sellers, the head of a sales division at Wells Fargo (WFC), couldn’t get the button removed for his 20 employees, he imposed a “gentlemen’s agreement” on his team to abstain from using it. “ ‘Reply All’ is a swear word around here,” says Nathan Bray, a senior vice president who works on Sellers’s team. “My friends [at other companies always say], ‘We hate getting all those “thanks” and “appreciateds” e-mails,’ ” not to mention the constant responses to companywide e-mails concerning cafeteria menu changes or spare concert tickets. According to Carson Tate, a workplace consultant and founder of Working Simply, a North Carolina firm that advised Sellers’s team, “They were really frustrated and really ticked. Their job in the field is to sort through clients and prospects—not who is going to the Madonna concert on Thursday.” Now the only time anyone hits Reply All is to celebrate something “really important.” At long last, says Sellers, “We’ve cut down on the sheer number of e-mails hitting our in-boxes.”

Makers of e-mail programs have heeded the calls of distress. Microsoft (MSFT) introduced a plug-in option on its Outlook program called NoReplyAll, which allows senders to prevent recipients from Replying All to their messages. Programs such as Reply to All Monitor, developed by Sperry Software, attack users with alerts anytime they click the Reply All button: “Are you sure you want to reply to everyone?” Sperry Software owner Mike Sperry got the idea when a colleague at a previous job embarrassed himself with a companywide e-mail. He’s found that the vast majority of his customers are law firms and banks that fear something less personal: sensitive client information ending up in the wrong hands. “It’s a cheap form of insurance,” says Sperry, who says that he’s sold “hundreds of thousands of the program,” which costs $14.95.

A company that’s come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen (NLSN). On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen’s decision: eliminating “bureaucracy and inefficiency.”

For his part, Wells Fargo’s Bray finds it hard to imagine working in a place that tolerates waves of pointless e-mail. When he tells friends and family about his Reply All-free workplace, he says, “They all have the same reaction, which is: ‘I hate those e-mails,’ ” he says. “But nobody does anything about it. We’ve done something about it. I have to say, it’s really been nice.”