[caption id="attachment_21935" align="alignright" width="300"]
This tiny critter is a tardigrade.[/caption]
Tardigrades, also nicknamed “water bears,” could be the earth’s most resilient animals. Species of these water-dwelling, microscopic invertebrates can easily survive in conditions that would destroy me and thee: extreme cold, pressure far higher than the deepest ocean depths, and the hard vacuum of space.
In fact, in a study published on July 14, 2017 in the Journal Science Reports, theoretical physicists suggested
the only way to kill all tardigrades would be to boil the oceans dry
. And since the odds of a disaster that could actually do that are somewhere between absurd and impossible, according to the study, tardigrades can likely survive until the sun becomes a red giant and swallows the earth 6 billion years from now.
That doesn’t mean we humans should curl into a ball and abandon all hope. After all, we’re not likely to face such extremes even in our worst and strangest disasters.
can survive a few minutes at 304°F. The only time we humans are ever likely to encounter such temperatures is in a fire
So, make sure you’ve got working smoke alarms
on every floor. Know how to operate window and door latches. Create a fire escape plan with two exits from each room in the house then practice getting out in the dark.
Tardigrades can also survive at -458°F, or one degree above absolute zero. At that temperature, helium is liquid
The earth doesn’t get that cold. However, wind chill is a major concern for people. A temperature of -5°F with wind of 10mph can cause frostbite in 30 minutes. A decent percent of the United States sees weather like that every year. Know symptoms of cold weather ailments
like frostbite and hypothermia.
Tardigrades can survive without water for nearly 10 years. We last about 3 days
. Water storage is vital for an emergency. You need at least one gallon per person per day for at least three days, according to ready.gov
Tardigrades can survive 1,000 times as much radiation as humans can. And our technology is even more vulnerable to radiation, charged particles and other disruptions. A solar storm, a blast of particles, and energy from the sun
can cause electromagnetic spikes that can overload utilities. A 1989 solar storm took only 90 seconds to collapse a northeastern Canada power grid. Millions of people lost power for up to nine hours. The storm also caused minor damage throughout the U.S
. So make sure you’ve got a backup power source.
Tardigrades have even survived days outside a spacecraft in low orbit. We could last about 15 seconds
. That is, assuming average chumps like us, or more creative people like these folks
, can make it into space at all. But look at some of the main needs for human flight, -- fuel, food, water, communication. An emergency kit
should meet all of those needs.
Here are some other things tardigrades could survive, according to National Geographic
The strike of an asteroid the size of a mountain, like the one that scientists believe likely destroyed dinosaurs 66 million years ago. A supernova 0.14 light years from earth –which is impossible since our sun can’t supernova
, and the next-nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is more than 4 light years away. A gamma ray burst less than 40 light years away – again, wildly unlikely because gamma ray bursts are far away and infrequent.
We’ve got it comfortable compared with tardigrades. So let’s prepare for what we can so maybe humans can last as long. (Though that’s a doubtful proposition except on Doctor Who
Melissa Rivera is a jack-of-all-trades who is master of none. She has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years.