With a bit of effort it is possible to list at least 25 “End of the World as we Know It” predictions. Some of them are pretty unlikely - even bizarre - but some are definitely more realistic and therefore, frightening. Not all of these predictions will destroy the planet but most will remove humanity once and for all. We’ve listed the top 25 predictions based on Likelihood and Impact (a classic risk analysis predictions matrix.) It's the end of the world as we know it. Remember ...
It's the end of the world as we know it, It's the end of the world as we know it ... and I feel fine.
The famous chorus from the REM song of the same title and published as part of their 1987 Album “Document”.
CASTLE ROMEO 1954
TX-17 thermonuclear weapon
11 Megatons - Third Largest US Test They're much bigger now!."
Scientists pretty much know how the actual planet we live on will end and so their end of the world predictions are likely to be accurate. Even in the few centuries that mankind has studied the universe, the science of astronomy has repeatedly shown that eventually the Sun will expand and consume the first three planets of this solar system. Even if it stops short of the Earth the intense heat will destroy every living thing on this little blue world. The good news is that this won’t (or shouldn’t) happen for another several billion years. In geological time humans haven’t even been on this planet for a single second in the 24 hour lifespan of the Earth. However, the bad news is there are many ways in which the planet could change so radically that the vast majority of people would be unable to survive. There are even some events that could end all life long before our several billion year window closes. According to many respected scientists – some of these predictions will definitely occur it’s just a matter of when. In short, the only way that humanity will survive in the very long-term is get off this planet and spread across the universe (a bit like a virus moving from cell-to-cell). This page examines the predictions for the way in which humanity (and on occasions the whole world) is likely to end. We’ve ranked these predictions in order of diminishing likelihood. We reserve the right to change the order as and when we feel like it.
1. TOTAL NUCLEAR WAR
This is still Number One and is a well known predictionfor the end of the world (certainly for Humanity) that is both likely and feasible. There are nine countries in the world that admit having atomic weapons and they are often referred to as the Nuclear Club. Five of these countries are classed as Nuclear Weapons States which is a title and status conferred on them by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. In order of nuclear acquisition they are USA, Russia, Britain, France and China. India, Pakistan and North Korea, none of who are current signatories to the Treaty have all undertaken recent nuclear weapons tests. It is widely believed that Israel has nuclear weapons as may South Africa. Israel refuses to comment and South Africa states that it manufactured six atomic bombs (probably at Valindaba) but has now decommissioned them. There may well be more countries that secretly developed nuclear weapons or acquired them on the black market.
Exact figures are hard to estimate but numbers released by the BBC on 2 May 2000 claimed the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons amounted to over 42,000 warheads. The good news is that four years later there were apparently a lot less.
Year 2,000 BBC Internet
As we can see, there are plenty of “Nukes” still active. We haven’t been able to discover what the total megaton yield of the remaining warheads would be but it is enough to say that it is still very, very big indeed.
The end of the world scenario is simple. For unknown reasons the nuclear powers start using their weapons on each other and MAD – or Mutually Assured Destruction – occurs. The devastation from thermonuclear blasts would be bad enough and would send what was left of mankind back to the Stone Age. Worse though would be the ongoing effects of nuclear radiation and nuclear winter. The radiation would engulf the planet on a scale that can’t be imagined. Within 6 months anyone who was not “blown up” would be very sick. Within 24 months just about everyone is dead. Disease, residual radiation pockets, starvation, secondary pollutants, poisoned rain and freezing temperatures will just about finish off humanity. It is very possible that a select few will survive on stockpiled rations in deep underground bunkers but even they will have to face a radically changed world if they ever return to the surface. (Amtrak Wars) Humanity as we know it would be gone.
2. BIOLOGICAL CATASTROPHE / WEAPON
Plagues have always claimed a terrible death toll from the human population. Bubonic plague caused by the bacterium “Yersinia Pestis” claimed an estimated 75 million lives in the 1340’s pandemic alone. The Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 may have killed up to 100 million people. The most lethal of the natural diseases is Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever but fortunately it has never fully erupted outside of Africa although according to the excellent 1994 book the “Hot Zone” by Richard Preston it was accidentally brought to Reston Virginia in the USA but miraculously did not escape the containment laboratory. (It was an airborne variation.) Ebola outbreaks continue till today. It is not surprising that this ranks high in our list of end of the world predictions.
The Uganda Ministry of Health recently confirmed an outbreak of Ebola in the Bundibugyo area. Samples tested by the United States National Reference Laboratories and the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization confirmed the presence of a new species of the Ebola virus.
These natural super-diseases are terrifying but because humans have evolved along with these bacteria and viruses there are usually survivors. Even the most deadly of all natural viruses, the Ebola Filovirus only kills nine out of every ten people. (One of the teams’ father actually survived a case of very severe Hemorrhagic Fever, possibly the Ebola disease, in 1956 in Southern Rhodesia, Africa) The real concern is that bio-weapons specialists have been experimenting and there is real concern that new and deadly strains of Ebola, Anthrax, Smallpox and even Bubonic Plague have been created. These new diseases may well be 100% effective. Only those that were pre-vaccinated before weapons use would survive and even they might not survive the ensuing natural mutations. This is a very real and terrifying threat to the survival of the human race particularly if the release was unanticipated and accidental. Stephen King’s novel, “The Stand”, is an excellent description of how this scenario might unfold. (Just ignore the mystic bits.)
3. OVER POPULATION PREDICTIONS
In our list of end of the world predictions, this actually may be the most serious longer-term threat facing humanity. There are just too many people on this planet and the number is getting bigger by the minute. Unpleasant as it may sound, we are the mammal equivalent of locusts. We are Consumers with a capital C. We devour vast amounts and we are desperately opposed to limiting our numbers. It’s probably an ancient racial survival instinct. Locust swarms work by consuming everything they can and then die when the food runs out. However, locusts have a survival mechanism we don’t. They can lay eggs that wait until conditions are good and then start again (diapause). The reason Brood X (cicadas) only appear in the USA once every seventeen years maybe for the exact same principle. Locusts can also breed incredibly fast in the right conditions with one female producing dozens of offspring in just a few weeks.We humans can’t do that on any serious scale. We would just die. Still, before we did we would fight each other for the few resources that remain and we would fight to the death. It would be “Total War” at every level. It’s very possible that those that do survive would be unable to make it on their own. The only thing we can hope for is that Humanity will somehow change its behaviour before this happens. For example, China is already limiting the number of children per couple to one. Strange as it may seem – a plague that wipes out 70% of humanity might actually ensure the survival of our species in the longer-term. Let us put this scenario another way. At the current rate of population growth it could well be all over in in a thousand years. That’s soon!
4. NEW UNKNOWN WEAPON
In this scenario a new type of weapon is created. It might be a Fusion Bomb capable of turning the world into a short-term star, it might be a new form of radiation or it might even be a gravitational weapon that stops the world spinning. Now while all of these possibilities seem like farfetched science fiction "end of the world predictions" it is worth noting that so would have nuclear weapons seemed to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821). In fact, he probably could not have imagined such a destructive power as even possible. The point is that just 100 years ago people were still using cavalry with lances. So, 100 years from now – who knows? One thing we can be sure of - the Arms Race is still very much alive and well.
5. COLLAPSE OF THE WORLD WIDE ECOSYSTEM
Most biologists now agree that the worldwide ecosystem is a far more fragile entity than was previously thought. The ecosystem produces the air we breathe and the food that we eat. The ecosystem is also a very complex matrix of interdependent relationships. There has been a vast amount written about this subject so please forgive us if we simplify things a little. The theory states that if mankind continues to destroy the planetary ecosystem then eventually a “tipping point” or “destructive critical mass” will be reached. Suddenly crops won’t grow because the insects that pollinate them have died off. (Believe it or not there is now a significant shortage of pollinating bees in the USA right now). Pollutants damage the seas and the food chains fail. Millions of microbiological ecosystems that produce oxygen just disappear. Each small loss creates further losses until the Earth starts to lose its larger species and finally us. This is a classic example of a huge number of micro-disasters adding up to one very big one. The planet would survive and would probably regenerate once the cause (us) was wiped out. In fact after 50 million years or so it might look quite like it did just before the last major ice age. By then there will be very few traces that we once existed at all. It is this theme that was used in the recent (2008) Pixar / Disney film “Wall-E” and was used in the final episode of the once incredibly popular series “Dinosaurs” produced by Michael Jacobs Productions and Jim Henson Productions in association with Walt Disney Television as a parody of human society." As one of our end of the world predictions this would be a very nasty way to go.
6. TOTAL ICE AGE (SNOWBALL EARTH)
According to climatologist the Earth is actually in an Ice Age cycle that fluctuates between warm and cold periods. Right now we are in what is called an interglacial period – the warm time in between the much longer and colder ones. If the record of ice ages is accurate and consistent then it’s due to get very much colder in the next few thousand years – maybe starting tomorrow. There is no doubt that with the aid of modern technology humanity could survive. However, a theory that was recently put forward claims that we are heating the planet too fast and that this warming trend will trigger rapid cooling if the desalination of the polar oceans causes the current known as the North Atlantic Current (conveyor belt) to fail. The ice age that follows would be far colder than normal and would destroy civilization in the northern hemisphere. A film, “The Day After Tomorrow” was released in 2004 and featured this scenario. Now you might think that this is bad but it gets far worse. Proponents of the Snowball Earth theory suggest that all the extra ice would reflect so much sunlight that each year it would get progressively colder (more snow and ice reflecting sunlight) until the planet transformed into a giant snowball entirely frozen except for a few “slushy” areas around the equator. If you think that this is farfetched it is worth noting that an increasing number of scientists believe that it has happened at least several times before. They cite it as the only explanation for the type of worldwide sedimentary deposits that have been discovered. It does get warmer again when internals volcanism and increasingly dirty snow allow the planet to warm up. Still, by then we'd be long gone. As predictions go this is just not cool!
7. (NEW)NEGATIVE ENERGY CLOUD
New predictions for the end of the world just keep on cropping up. It’s called a Negative Energy Cloud and there is absolutely no physical evidence for its existence. Still, this could be one of the most real and dangerous threats facing the planet Earth. This is the theory and a little of its history. In February 1940 a German physicist by the name of Hans Dietrich Freuder (most likely from Freiburg) was invited by a certain Dr. Hans Reiter to prepare himself to work at the Norsk Hydro in Vemork, Norway. However, in 1941 after setting out for his destination he was redirected to Peenemunde on the Baltic Sea. There is no record of what he worked on during this time but in November 1943 he resurfaced in Berlin having just recovered from severe burns and temporary deafness. He allegedly addressed a small group of scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology and introduced a radical new concept. In attendance were Dr’s Lenz, Fischer, Plank, Verschuer and Debye. He explained that work that he had been conducting had indicated that there existed in the universe collections or clouds of negative energy. These “clouds” were invisible to all instruments but explained a phenomenon he described as the “deficiency of gravity, matter and energy”. Apparently he rambled on for some time but towards the end of the lecture he suddenly appeared “calm, intense and terrifyingly focused” (Citation - R. Lenke 1944). His summary was “clear and precise and in all manner the opposite of his presentation”. The theory and request was simple. He believed that there were many invisible clouds that drifted through the universe propelled by their own “insolence” (?) that absorbed all forms of electrical energy. He stated that “Albert of the Institute” (?) believed that “Light as a Consistent” would pass through them unperturbed. When they engulfed a solar system all things dependant on the essence of electricity would immediately fail to function as the electrical flux was absorbed into the cloud. He expressed his concern that that this might even effect the human brain that was dependant on a similar flux. He voiced concern that a society dependant on “technomatics” (technology) would be wholly and utterly vulnerable. Cavalry should be maintained. He requested that a team be established to investigate the possible creation of a Nation immune to such effects. He then abruptly left the podium and was not seen again.
What became of Dr. Freuder or his request is currently unknown but since 1943 the possibility of NEC’s has become significantly more believable. The existence of “Missing Gravity” has been confirmed and “Dark Matter / Dark Energy” is now a very accepted scientific concept. Unfortunately “Dark Energy”, the possible phenomenon described by Freuder still has the connotation of “Here be Dragons” on very old maps. In short, they know it’s there but have no idea what it is. If, as Freuder suggested, it can engulf solar systems and prevent the effective functioning of the brain then it really is a contender for the “This is the “End of the World / Humanity” predictions. It may well even explain the mass extinctions identified in the geological record
8. ENERGY EXPERIMENT GOES WRONG
There has been significant speculation in the media and around dinner tables about what will happen when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - a gigantic underground particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles is switched on and tested. The 28 km long LHC was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and is located underneath the Franco-Swiss border between the Jura Mountains and the Alps near Geneva, Switzerland. On 10 September 2008 the LHC circulated its first particle beams but a few days later had to halt operations due to equipment malfunction when faulty magnets triggered a shutdown that will delay its operation for at least two months. It is believed that the collider will not be tested again until the spring of 2009. Many concerns have already been raised in the media and through the courts regarding the safety of such intense particle collisions and some speculation has emerged, even from the scientific community that one day an experiment in the LHC could initiate an energy related chain reaction that could destroy the planet.
The general consensus of the scientific community is that the LHC is not dangerous. However, there will be other experiments and discoveries in the field of sub-atomic energy that might, just might, one day go horribly wrong. A significant minority of people feel the scientific knowledge gained is just not worth the risk.
9. SUPER VOLCANO
The super volcano predictions first came into public consciousness after the airing of a popular BBC programme, Horizon, explored the subject. In brief a Super Volcano is a giant volcano that will generate an eruption in the VEI 7 to VEI 9 category. The threat and existence of these volcanoes was largely overlooked by science until quite recently for three reasons. Firstly, Volcanology is a relatively new science and has had a lot of catching up to do. Secondly, these volcanoes don’t appear as mountains or cones. Their eruptions are so gigantic that they collapse back into the crust forming mega calderas that can be overlooked. Thirdly, there have been plenty of more interesting or at least accessible volcanoes to study.
How big is the threat? According to volcanologists it’s big and it’s real. Put another way – the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens was a either a High VEI 4 or a low VEI 5. The blast ejected 1.2 cubic kilometers of rock and ash. When the Lake Toba super eruption took place only 75,000 years ago it ejected 2,300 cubic kilometres of debris that reached high into the atmosphere. It was 2,000 times as powerful as Mt. St. Helens. An interesting observation is that apparently all (original) Western DNA can be traced back to 7 females and is known as the Near Extinction Bottleneck. It came that close! In a 1998 article, Stanley Ambrose proposed a hypothesis—a volcanic winter scenario—to explain recent human differentiation. The bottleneck was caused by a volcanic winter resulting from the super-eruption of Toba in Sumatra. The largest explosive super eruption identified, a VEI 9, took place in Colorado, USA and ejected 5,000km3 of material. Fortunately it was 28 million years ago and quite some time before humans appeared on the scene. However, in deep-geological-time the event happened yesterday. According to the makers of a TV documentary / drama about the Yellowstone super volcano – we’re already overdue for the next one. Now as end of the world predictions go ... that is troubling.
10. ASTEROID OR METEOR IMPACT
This is a disaster scenario with which many people are already familiar. Two recent blockbuster films have been made about the subject – “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact”. In brief, a meteorite or asteroid of a sufficient size impacts the Earth. If the object is large enough it will create an explosion that could literally generate enough heat to turn burn away the atmosphere, turn millions of square miles of the planet’s surface to molten rock, trigger vast amounts of volcanism, stimulate tsunamis capable of completely covering Cuba and create earthquakes beyond anything measured by science. A truly big asteroid or small planetoid could literally take the Earth back to the state it was when it was in just formed (the second time) – a molten fiery world devoid of life. It is worth noting that this is the event that created the original planet we live on. The impact of smaller but still devastatingly destructive asteroids has probably occurred several times in the planets history. It is the smoking gun for the extinction of the dinosaurs and as recently as 1908 an event occurred over Tunguska in Russia that destroyed 80 million trees and created shock waves that could be felt in London. Had it been four times the size we may not be here today. Still, the big impacts are very rare – if they were more common then life, and ultimately humanity, could never have evolved as it has. This is a very practical contender to end the world and enough of a threat for governments to set up programmes such as the Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) project to help provide warning of dangerous asteroids and meteorites. Fact: Between the 16th to the 20th July 1994 various fragments of an asteroid, Shoemaker Levy 9, crashed into the planet Jupiter causing spectacular impact explosions. By the way, if Shoemaker Levy Nine had hit us then it would have been goodbye humanity in less than 10 minutes.
HOW WILL THE WORLD END?: TOP 25: (10 - 20)
The first species accepted as proto-human was Australopithecus - a gracile being that has often been presented as the missing link. They came into existence about 4 million years ago. Earth has existed for about 4.5 billion years and that means we've been around for less than 0.08% of the time the world has.
The Dinosaurs survived for approximately 165,000,000 years about 3.6% of the Earth's total geological history. They were one of the most successful complex life forms on this planet. They're all dead and have been for about 65 million years. Modern humans are perhaps only 200,000 years old. As a species, and measured, against "deep time" we've not survived very long at all ...
IS GENETIC ENGINEERING THE FUTURE OF
THE HUMAN SPECIES?
"Human or not any longer?"
11. MASS GENETIC MUTATION
Now this is a very scary scenario that needs some background information. Bacteria, Amoeba, Plants, Animals and even you are all living organisms often just referred to as “life” and are determined by genes passed down through the ages. Genes are based on DNA that has taken billions of years to evolve into the complex “life” that exists today. These genes do mutate naturally but usually with tiny changes over a long period of time. If they’re “good mutations” then the species improves and evolves as the new mutation is spread through the breeding population. If it’s “bad mutation” then usually the creature often fails to survive long enough to pass it on or fails to compete with its stronger competitors or predators. However some bad genetic mutations make it through and spread throughout the population. Some horrible genetic weaknesses that made it into the greater human population, and now cause disease, include: Angelman Syndrome, Colour Blindness, Down Syndrome, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Haemophilia, and Sickle-cell Disease. There are more.
Today, thanks to modern genetic engineering, mankind is able to create in a few months the kind of genetic adaptation that might have previously taken a million years. This is unnatural! (not in nature) The genetic engineers assure us that it’s safe but many other scientists are very concerned. In this scenario a “very bad mutation” makes it into the human population and has a devastating impact. It might trigger a new kind of disease that kills everyone or it might cause a slower series of mutations that, over time, transform humans into something else that isn’t human anymore. (I Am Legend – 2007 / Resident Evil - 2002) Just remember this – it doesn’t matter how many times the genetic engineers get it right – they only need to get it badly wrong once!
12. MACHINES & ROBOTS
In the exceptional 1982 film, Blade Runner, (based on the book - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) Harrison Ford discovers that his rather “messed-up” world is under threat from artificial humans that are a fusion of synthetics and bioengineering (Replicants).In the 1999 film, The Matrix, a man called Neo discovers that he is just a “mind” plugged into a vast network that simulates reality and the world is actually run by machines and robots. In the science fiction novel “Gravity Dreams” by L. E. Modesitt and published in 2000 – the central character discovers that his world was once nearly destroyed by nanobots – tiny self-replicating machines small enough to live in the cells of human beings. In the 2002 film, I Robot, the world comes close to being taken over by a fantastic artificially intelligent man-made brain that has an army of robots at its command. The Science fiction tales are many and often based on science-fact. There are literally dozens of examples. Humans are pushing ever harder to perfect nano-technology, Japanese robot toys are becoming more intelligent by the year and synthetic body parts are the next big thing in medicine. This is the scenario. Humans create machines (robots) that are stronger and smarter than we are. The machines stop doing what humans want and start doing what they want. Conflict follows – Machines win. Goodbye humans.
13. TECTONIC MANTLE SLIP
It is completely accepted by science that the crust of the earth floats on a subterranean ocean of molten rock. These tectonic plates move very slowly and are the cause of continental drift. Proponents of the Tectonic Mantle Slip theory believe that there is some evidence to suggest that periodically the entire crust “slips” on the molten core and all the land masses are relocated in different parts of the world. This slip can happen very quickly over a period of just a few months. The result of a modern day slip would be catastrophic for humanity. The earthquakes and increased volcanism would just about wipe us out as would the tidal waves, mega-storms and tsunamis. However, those that survived would find themselves living in very different and unstable climates. Ecosystems would fail and social infrastructure would collapse totally. Desert countries might find themselves washed away by monsoons; fertile farmland could be relocated to Arctic zones. Strangely, our Paleolithic ancestors who were used to harsh conditions are likely to have survived such a cataclysmic event far better than we would today.
14. GAMMA RAY BURSTS
It is only recently that scientist recognized the threat posed by GRB’s or (Gamma Ray Bursts). These energy emissions were first discovered in the late 1960s by the US “Vela” nuclear test detection satellites. The Velas were built to detect gamma-radiation pulses emitted by nuclear weapon tests in space. The most popular theory for the origin of Gamma Ray Burst is that they are generated by a dying star that is consumed from within by a black hole. As the star finally collapses the phenomenon ejects a massive and deadly burst of Gamma energy. If you’re close to this event – say within a thousand light years then your planet is toast – literally. Basically the world is burnt to a cinder and then frozen in a nuclear-type winter for thousands of years. A few fish and cockroaches might survive but to be honest we’re not sure about the fish. If you’re further away but still within range then the planet might just lose its ozone layer and experience 10 years of acid rain. The fact is that nobody is a 100% sure what creates these bursts of super-deadly radiation but there is no doubt they are happening – events are now recorded by satellites up to several times per day. So … let’s hope that one’s not coming to a neighbourhood near us. (By the way this is an extremely abbreviated disaster scenario. We could have written pages about the ghastly effects of Gamma Ray Bursts but there just didn’t seem to be much point. Everything dies … the end!
15. MOON CATASTROPHE
Many people do not realise how important the moon is to the historic protection and future survival of this Planet. The moon intercepts meteors, creates tides, balances the rotation of the planet and may even keep the core of this planet moving and generating the magnetic shield that protects us from solar radiation. If for some reason the moon was destroyed the Earth could be left very vulnerable. Some experts claim that the lack of a moon would create such chaos that humanity would be exterminated while other experts say that it would definitely be a problem but not an Extinction Level Event (ELE) unless a big enough part of the moon fell back onto the Earth. Is the destruction of the moon possible? The answer is yes. Between the 16th to the 20th July 1994 an asteroid, Shoemaker Levy 9 crashed into the planet Jupiter. Had this object impacted the moon (8,000 times smaller) then it could have split the moon into two smaller molten moons that could have well drifted away. Is it possible? The answer is yes. Likely – not yet. By the way, if Shoemaker Levy Nine had hit us then it would have been goodbye humanity in less than 11 minutes. The good news is that the Moon has been around for billions of years and it hasn’t happed yet.
16. (NEW) COLLIDING DIMENSIONS / THE NEXT BIG BANG
There has not been much written about this possible ending for two reasons. Firstly, the science behind it is very theoretical, hard to explain and even harder to follow. Secondly, it hasn’t happened anywhere we can see even with our most powerful telescopes and star watching instruments. This is a very simplified explanation. We, and everything else in our universe, exist in a dimension. There are other dimensions even if you don’t understand or believe in them. When they collide they create vast amounts of energy and matter. The result is a “Big Bang” exactly like the one that created everything our universe. This End of the World theory is that if this is true then at any time and in any place there could suddenly be a second “Big Bang” event. This would naturally have devastating consequences for any physical matter (Us, the World, Galaxies etc.) that already existed.
17. ALIEN INVASION
There are billions of stars in the universe and recent science has shown that many of these have planets that orbit them. This could mean that there are trillions (maybe zillions) of planets out there. It is almost a statistical impossibility that none of these support intelligent life. We know of at least one – us. However, according to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This means that even if there are aliens living in nearby star systems it would take decades for them to reach us. Of course it is possible that these aliens have found a way around this problem and can zip across to Earth as easily as we visit the local supermarket but it’s just very unlikely. In this scenario these pesky “zipping” and incredibly advanced aliens decide that they want our World and don’t want us hanging around asking for free Medicare and the secrets of the universe. Basically they experiment on us for a while and then after they get bored with dissecting cows and various sexual investigations, they kill us all. It’s not that we don’t believe in aliens we are absolutely certain they exist – we just don’t believe they can get here! Of course we could be wrong.
18. THE UNIVERSAL SWITCH OFF
This is a very simple theory. In the beginning there was nothing (absolutely no single thing) and then there was something. Scientists call this event the “Big Bang”. We know this happened because we can actually hear the echoes of this event with our most powerful telescopes. It happened about 10 billion years ago. The foundation of this theory states that if something can be created from nothing – “The Great Switch On” – then just as easily it could be “Switched Off” – something into nothing. Don’t be fooled into dismissing this theory because it is simple – this could well be the most dangerous threat to all existence and not just our lonely little planet. Please take note – the great and unexplainable “Switch On” is a universally accepted scientific event – it happened. However, according to Isaac Newton: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Although there isn’t much more to say, this theory really worries us.
19. ROGUE BLACK HOLE
In this theory a black hole (the incredibly dense heart of a dead star) enters our solar system. At first it would really stir up the asteroid belt so the chances are Earth would be destroyed by a meteor or asteroid long before eventually being swallowed by the black hole. They say it could happen at any time because black holes – particularly the smaller ones – can be very hard to spot as not even light can escape their massive gravity. Fortunately many mainstream scientists and astronomers are very skeptical and firmly believe that if there was a black hole close enough to be a threat they’d have noticed it by now. Still, if we are considering a much longer period – say hundreds of millions of years then it is just as likely as any other theory.
20. WAR OF THE SEXES
We’re not sure about this one but the basic concept was featured in the 1976 book “A World out of Time” by Larry Niven – a much respected futurologist and science fiction writer. Basically there is a conflict between the human X & Y chromosome and the males and females of our species simply cannot produce anymore children. Females solve this problem through self reproduction (a form of hermaphrodism that already exists) and, over time, become a separate species on their own. Males die out. Something would survive but it would not be humanity as we know it.
HOW WILL THE WORLD END?: TOP 25: (20 - 25)
Still, the planet has survived so far and if it was a human it would already be in its late 30's.
How long will Humanity survive is a much more relevant question? The people of this planet, both from developed and undeveloped nations, are consuming our precious few resources and destroying the environment - our habitat - at rate never before experienced. It's just not sustainable. The truth is that the planet will survive for a long time to come but people might not. Perhaps we need to add a section Ten Real Ways to save humanity! In reality, the biggest threat to Humanity is ... Human beings!
Coming right at us - Artists Impression (C) Aquiziam
21. GLIESE 710
Apparently GLIESE 710 is a small red dwarf star that is heading our way. It will arrive in about 1.3 billion years and if it passes through our solar system then it is very possibly goodbye planet Earth. Just so you know - it may be small but it is still 50 times the size of our planet. It will also disrupt just about every rock and asteroid in the region. So even if GLIESE 710 is a close miss we’re still space debris thanks to all those disturbed asteroids. Will it hit our solar system? At the moment it’s a 1 in 50 chance but that’s still not good when that one chance means total annihilation.
This option may well deserve to be ranked higher, particularly as science seems determined to prod this concept until something nasty happens. First off - is there really something called antimatter – in essence the opposite of matter? According CERN, yes there is and during 1995 they announced that they had successfully created nine antihydrogen atoms by implementing the SLAC/Fermilab concept during the PS210 experiment. The experiment was performed using the Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR), and was led by Walter Oelert and Mario Macri. Fermilab soon confirmed the CERN findings by producing approximately 100 antihydrogen atoms at their facilities. The problem was that these antimatter 1995 particles were “hot” (a disturbing term) and not that suitable to study. (Nearly 15 years later CERN now have the Large Hadron Collider. It makes the LEAH look like a kid’s toy.) We won’t trouble you with the science – there is a very good page on Wikipedia and the online Encyclopedia Britannica. But ... we will explain the issue. Put simply, when antimatter and matter neutralize each other vast amounts of energy could potentially be released. In the 2000 novel, “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown (Author of The Da Vinci Code) a very tiny amount of antimatter stolen from CERN is used to create a massive explosion over the Vatican (Rome). It appears that CERN are improving their ability to produce this “stuff” and it may be very dangerous “stuff” indeed. We did some calculations that became incredibly complex so we are very willing to admit that we may have got it wrong but according to our estimates just one (1) kilogram of pure antimatter allowed to interact with matter would completely disintegrate the Planet Earth and the Moon. Actually the calculations suggested that it could take out every planet from Mercury to Jupiter but surely that’s a mistake? The very good news is that it is incredibly expensive and difficult to produce this stuff. Hang on a moment … that’s today. It might well be quite easy to produce it in a thousand years time. We’d better hope that they have really good Health and Safety standards by then. The more we think about it the more we worry that this should be our number one concern … maybe!
According to various religious beliefs, particularly the Christian Church, God will eventually end the world and the “good’ will go to Heaven and the “evil” will go to Hell. Believers call this the Rapture. It was supposed to happen just over a decade ago and again as recently as the 21st of May, 2011. (It was incorrectly predicted by a popular evangelist . The BBC ran the story under the headline - 'Followers Baffled as Life Goes On - click here to read more.)
In the Book of Revelation, God, ushering in the Great Tribulation judgments, commands seven angels to pour "seven vials of the wrath of God" upon the Earth. Armageddon (the end of the world) then follows the pouring of the sixth vial. If you are a deeply religious believer then this is what will happen – end of debate. If you are an observational scientist or of a different religion then this is just a load of rubbish. Both the Armageddonists and the Scientists firmly believe that the world will end. The disagreement is about when, how and why!
According to the New Scientist Space (14 may 2007) in approximately 2 billion years the Andromeda Galaxy will nearly collide with our own galaxy – the Milky Way. During this time the gravitation effects of this near miss could cause havoc with our own solar system causing either world ending cataclysm or, according to others, nothing at all. Nobody is very sure what will happen but it is more than likely to be unpleasant. Fortunately two billion years is a long time so right now no one is losing any sleep over this future cosmic collision.
25. EXPANSION OF THE SUN
As we mentioned right at the start of this article even Suns (stars) have a lifespan. Eventually our Sun will finish consuming the hydrogen fuel that keeps it nice and yellow and start a series of convulsions that will see it transform into a huge red giant. The sun will grow so large that it will probably consume Mercury and Venus and may or may not consume Earth before it finally collapses. It doesn’t really matter because the increase in temperature will certainly burn the entire surface of the crust of our planet to a cinder and may even turn it to molten rock again. This is always assuming that the Earth has managed to survive several other possible “end of the world” disasters that could end it all before this happens.
THE SCENARIOS THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE TOP TWENTY FIVE
Verne-shot – vast internal planetary explosions casting island sized chunks of the Earth into Space. (Sorry guys – even after hundreds of millions of years they’d be cosmic evidence. Nope!)
Mass Insanity – We go mad for some unexplainable reason and all run into the sea like lemmings. Oh Please? At least a few hundred thousand would be too busy having sex to join the lunacy.
Mass Suicide – We’ve conquered every challenge, cured every disease including aging. We get bored and kill ourselves all at once. (This concept was first presented in the 1953 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein “Starman Jones” and is just as inconceivable today as it was then. Quite an interesting story though.)
Giant (non meteoric) Tsunamis – who cares what caused them it would be short-term and lots of people would survive. Forget Kevin Costner’s film “Waterworld” everyone thought it was rubbish.
Magnetic Pole Flip – The magnet field is weakening as we write. It may soon flip and for a while we will have no electromagnetic shield. According to scientists we’d get over this. On the other hand they may be wrong and we all die of cancer. Unlikely! The geological record shows that this has happened many, many times before.
Bubble Nucleation – Just way too complicated! Have a look at Occam’s Razor.
Nemesis Dwarf – The evil twin of the Sun somehow hiding out there in the cosmos ready to cause havoc when it’s orbit brings it back in range. No … we can now identify planets around stars more than 100 light years away. We’d have spotted Nemesis by now. Also … it must have visited many times before and we still evolved. Nah!”
Space Clouds – Great clouds of the stuff that eventually becomes stars. This was a close contender for a real threat. If we’d gone to 26 then this would have been it.
When we set out to research this topic (on a whim) we had no idea of the sheer number of threats facing our planet. The truth is that many of these “threats” seem to have been constructed using pseudo-science but some are genuinely a real concern. Still, Before you rush out and starting eating Valium tranquillizers like candy consider this. The universe has already thrown many disasters at this World of ours but it has survived so far. Sure … any of the above scenarios could be the end of the world as we know it … but we still feel fine.