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Club EA UPY + EA Yucatán = Noé Lozano M,  Janeth Valdivia, Valeria Villanueva, Yuliana Molina, Jason Pinelo, Isabel Cámara, Steffan Canul, Alejandro Rodríguez Trillo, Juan Cel, Gabriel Salazar, Samuel Castro y Silvia Fernández. 


Last September 27th, VOX magazine dedicated an article to the first mankind asteroid deflection. The name of Yucatan (southeastern peninsula of Mexico) is mentioned once and Chicxulub (small port on the Yucatan coast), 3 times, for being the precise place where it is believed that the asteroid that killed our dinosaur friends hit.

It was interesting to read it, not only due to the event relevance, but also because every time we talk to someone from the EA community outside Mexico, few of them know where Yucatán is, and even less that since 2021 there is an EA-Yucatán group (based in Mérida city) and recently the EA-UPY Club (integrated by students from the Universidad Politécnica de Yucatán). 

This is the 2nd time in the history of the world that an asteroid has done us the favor of bringing attention to our land, as we do not know when it will happen again (fortunately the big ones don't visit us frequently), we want to take the opportunity to talk about Yucatan, the crater and why we think we have valuable elements to offer to the EA movement. We believe that from our geography to our cultural and historical context, Yucatan is of international relevance. 

Meteorite Museum, Progreso Yucatan, Nov 13, 2022

The Devil's Flea

Approximately 66 million years ago the Chicxulub (devil flea in Mayan language) meteorite wiped out more than 70% of life on our planet. This happened in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, specifically near the port of Chicxulub, at 19° 18′ south latitude and 127° 46′ east longitude. 

Although the meteorite was no more than 20 km in radius, the diameter of the impact is close to 200 km, with a depth of 900 meters. This is because the event released energy equivalent to hundreds of thousands of gigatons of dynamite. 

Few people in Yucatan are aware of living over a crater because it is buried under a thick layer of carbonates. 

Geomagnetic and gravimetric anomalies

Among the most mentioned consequences of the Chicxulub impact is the extinction of the dinosaurs, but little is said about others, for example, the anomalous values of the gravimetric field (the impact produced compressions followed by decompressions in the rocks) and the earth's magnetic field (the shock wave produced remagnetizations in the rocks) in this region. In fact, these variations were the main reasons why the crater was discovered and characterized. The story goes something like this:

Around 1960, Jaime Urrutia (Institute of Geophysics of the Autonomous University of Mexico) reported certain gravity anomalies near the Yucatan Peninsula. However, it was not until 1970 that Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) geophysicists, searching for oil, detected a surprisingly symmetrical arc-shaped subsurface structure. In 1978, Glen Penfield, who worked with PEMEX, measured the magnetic field of the rocks off the coast of the port of Chicxulub and found a value different from that of any known volcanic terrain. Putting these results together, he was able to identify a 180 km diameter circle with a center in Chicxulub, half on land and half in the waters of Mexico’s Gulf.

Iridium, an alien among us

Iridium is a metal that is scarce on the Earth's surface, but abundant in some space objects such as meteorites. It was therefore surprising to detect a thin, scattered layer of this metal all over the world. It is now known that these large amounts of iridium are due to the disintegration of the meteorite and the area with the highest concentration is the center of the Chicxulub crater. It is estimated that the dust raised by the impact spread in the atmosphere for decades, while living beings were dying.

The various geochemical, microscopic, and stratigraphic studies of the crater helped to reconstruct a hypothetical structure of the meteorite: a 10 km diameter projectile entering the Earth at a speed of 10 km per second.

Cenotes, entrances to the world of the dead

In the 1980's, American archaeologists who were studying the ancient Maya civilization, detected a strange but perfect ring of almost 200 km in diameter in several satellite images of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

The cenotes (from Maya ts'ono'ot: abyss, depth, deep freshwater lake or well), are crystalline water reservoirs, heavily exploited by the Yucatan's tourist industry. Their strange circular arrangement perplexed everyone at the Latin American Symposium on Remote Sensing, held in Acapulco in 1988.

Adriana Ocampo, a NASA planetary geologist in the audience, suggested considering the impact of an asteroid giant and violent enough to leave such clear traces 65 million years later. That was the beginning of a scientific adventure that led to the theory most widely accepted today: the ring corresponds to the crater rim caused by a 10 km wide meteor that hit Yucatan with unimaginable force. Since the 1990s, scientists from Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Asia have joined forces to solve the questions that remain buried, as many of the mysteries of the Chicxulub crater are.  

For the ancient Maya, the cenotes were entrances to the Xibalbá (world of the dead). In some of them, human skeletons have been found, so it is believed that they served as natural burial chambers or aquatic cemeteries, and that the remains did not always come from human sacrifices (Fun Fact: There is a Costco in Mérida with a cenote in its parking lot). 

EA Yucatan emerged from the crater

In November 2021, a group of 6 Yucatecan professionals from different areas, with several years of volunteering in traditional altruistic causes, discovered in EA a hopeful and promising global movement. This month, our regional EA Yucatan group celebrates its first anniversary and, despite the difficulties we have encountered in adapting EA's ideas to our socioeconomic and cultural context, we have grown in number of members of all ages. The details can be read in the report we are preparing, however, we want to mention here that one of our first intentions, since several of us are professors, was to make EA known in the universities, but we did not do it right away because we received from many people with more experience, a call to prudence and caution (to erroneously transmit the EA message could be worse than not giving it).

A few months ago, the wonderful mobility dynamics of the EA community made Mati Roy visit our city, and in a matter of days, we had already planned the first approach with students. As he is part of OpenAI, we asked him to prepare a talk about the risks of AI and give it at the Universidad Politécnica de Yucatán (UPY).  He did much better, he prepared a simple but substantial talk on Risks and Hopes of AI, attracting the attention of the 100 young attendees. It was wonderful to see a positive message. That talk was followed by a close conversation with the 15 students who expressed interest through their questions. Mati spent almost 3 hours with them chatting about existential risks, transhumanism and walking under a heavy rain through the halls of the university. You can see Mati's post on fb here.

Why starting at UPY

The Universidad Politécnica de Yucatán is a public university, decentralized from the Government of Yucatán, which operates under a Bilingual, International and Sustainable (BIS) model, and offers degrees in different fields of technology. The BIS model is an avant-garde model in higher education in Mexico that responds to international trends, unique in Latin America. This model is highly oriented to the global development of students that will enable them to be professionals of the world, with a high command of the English language, an international vision, and a broad sense of sustainability. Under this scheme, UPY offers 4 engineering programs: Cybersecurity, Embedded Systems, Computational Robotics and Data.

The concept of sustainability is incorporated in the architectural design, use of energy-saving construction materials, water reuse practices, rainwater harvesting, recycling, use of solar and wind energy, and planting of green areas to mitigate CO2 emissions. In this beautiful space nestled in the Yucatecan jungle, it is common to observe young people removing insects from the path so that they are not trampled, or guiding the various animals that occasionally approach the classrooms towards nature.

The BIS system, the level of English achieved by the students about to graduate, and the technological careers, made UPY an interesting option to introduce the EA ideas.

The EA-UPY Club is born

A short time after the talk with Mati, about a dozen students joined and formalized the creation of the EA-UPY Club. Almost 3 months after its formation, they have met every Sunday to read and discuss EA content; have chatted with interesting people like Sabin Roman from Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) and Cassandra Kind from The Singularity Group; have participated in EAGx Virtual where they made new contacts; have applied to the EAG-Berkeley event (waiting for a response); are ready to apply to EAGx Latin America and; of course, have collaborated in the research and writing of this article. So, this is a document written by 24 hands! Most of them are about to graduate and have expressed that these first contacts with EA have made them rethink their lives and careers. They are eager to discover the options they have to carry out this transformation.

Why the Yucatecan perspective is valuable

In many ways, Yucatan is unique, because phenomena of different nature have shaped and continue to shape the imaginary and mental structure of the Yucatecans. The impact of the meteorite, the presence of the cenotes, being descendants of the Mayan culture, which among its great discoveries we can mention the conceptual development of the number zero and the creation of a calendar, that was the most accurate of the time. Yucatecan Maya, the language spoken in the Peninsula, is a time capsule for those who decide to look inside. Linked to that, Yucatan Scientific Research Center has a Germplasm Bank where native seeds are protected.

It is in this region where the first mestizo was conceived and also the last region to succumb to the various attempts of Spanish conquest, as the last rebellion of the Mayan against the divine caste (the name given to the whites) culminated in the early twentieth century, an event known as the Caste War. Likewise, it was in Yucatan where the first Socialist Government of America was established, under the command of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, member of the Socialist Party of the Southeast, who also founded the first university in the southeast of Mexico. 

In more recent years, Yucatan has consolidated its position as the safest region in Latin America. Merida, the capital of southeastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, is a place where many digital nomads are arriving. Existential Risks scholars might find it attractive to put an office inside the Chicxulub crater ;) 

While recognizing that, as part of a developing country, Yucatan has many problems to solve, the events mentioned above (just to cite a few), show us that Yucatan has a unique way of thinking, perspective and way of life that must be integrated into the epistemic diversity of the EA movement. 


From what has been described here, it is a fact that Yucatan holds wonders in all its corners. From being the epicenter of one of the most important events in the history of life on Earth, to diverse social and historical phenomena that changed the course of many human generations. We, the members of EA Yucatan and EA UPY, are proud of our roots and the possibilities they have provided to us. Therefore, we are determined to help change the course of our history as a species, offering our creative, scientific, and technological skills to the service of those who are most in need at a global level. It will be a pleasure to collaborate with the entire Effective Altruism community in their future projects and events. We look forward to seeing you soon. A warm hug and greetings from the EA Yucatan and EA UPY groups!

Chicxulub Port, Yucatán, Nov 13 2022



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“Existential Risks scholars might find it attractive to put an office inside the Chicxulub crater ;)”

^That is a great idea.

Yucatan is beautiful, and additionally seems a ripe place for EA to gain beautiful perspective from. Didn’t know all this. Thanks to all of you, for writing up this nice piece.

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