HOW WILL THE WORLD END? THE TOP 25: (11 – 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 …
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, Hemophilia, 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 nanotechnology, 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.