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This Is the Way the World Ends

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the several-bangs-several-whimpers dept.

Space 394

Dave Knott writes "The CBC's weekly science radio show Quirks and Quarks this week features a countdown of the top ten planetary doomsday scenarios. Nine science professors and one science fiction author are asked to give (mostly) realistic hypotheses of the ways in which the planet Earth and its inhabitants can be destroyed. These possibilities for mankind's extinction include super-volcanoes, massive gamma ray bursts, and everybody's favorite, the killer asteroid. Perhaps the most terrifying prediction is the reversal of the Earth's magnetic field (combined with untimely solar activity), a periodic event which is currently 1/4 million years overdue."

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Tsk Tsk Tsk (5, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030185)

not a single one of them even considered the possibility of streams getting crossed...for shame!

Re:Tsk Tsk Tsk (-1, Offtopic)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030739)

Q: Whats the difference between GW Bush and Hoover?
A: Hoover only dam[mn]ed the Colorado river.

Re:Tsk Tsk Tsk (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030981)

One sucks, the other is a vacuum cleaner.

I already know how the world end. (4, Funny)

stonefoz (901011) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030195)

Wait till I find my r-37, space modulator.

Re:I already know how the world end. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030215)

where is my earth shattering kaboom?! i wanted an earth shattering kaboom!

Re:I already know how the world end. (4, Informative)

NightRain (144349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030481)

It's actually an Illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator

Um, global thermonuclear war? (4, Insightful)

coder111 (912060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030205)

We still have those bombs, remember?

What about that? I think it's still much more likely than the other options listed. It wouldn't end the Earth (nor would for example Gamma burst), but it would end the civilization and/or kill all humans.

--Coder

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (4, Insightful)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030327)

We still have those bombs, remember? What about that? I think it's still much more likely than the other options listed. It wouldn't end the Earth (nor would for example Gamma burst), but it would end the civilization and/or kill all humans. --Coder

There are humans all over the place. In some cases you'd have detonate a bomb in one area to kill a couple of people. Seems unlikely. It'd be devastating but unlikely to occur in any civilisation destroying volume.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (1)

Umuri (897961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030373)

Yeah, but remember the old addage?
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermonuclear war.

Just because they don't get killed by the blast, doesn't mean the earth won't be completely covered in radiation. Hell, even if only a few bombs go off, with the yield we have today it still could be enough to irradiate the ocean. and then we're just boned.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030711)

I dunno, I don't think a "few" bombs going off would be as devastating as you think. Hell, if a "few" bombs could irradiate the ocean, the ocean would already be dead because that's where most nuclear testing took place.

As for actual damage, even the Tzar Bomba [wikipedia.org] only did damage up to 620 miles away. That's a lot of destructive power, but it'd still take more than a few of them to really fuck things up. After a few hundred miles from the drop zone it was mostly just breaking windows.

I think the biggest threat of nuclear war isn't a few bombs, but the "mutually assured destruction" scenarios where everybody just says "fuck it" and just launches all of their nukes at everybody else. In that case you're looking at thousands of nukes aimed specifically at cities.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (5, Interesting)

coder111 (912060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030383)

Unless we get nuclear winter, and plants cannot grow anymore- no more food. Or radiation levels become so high that people die before reaching adulthood or cannot reproduce.

The conventional bombs we have to detonate to kill a couple of people are peanuts compared to MIRV missiles with 10 warheads each having 0.5 MT yield. And we have thousands of these.

I know there are lots of humans all over the place, but global thermonuclear war could have enough effect on the biosphere to render it unlivable.

--Coder

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030937)

I'd bet on the biosphere surviving. It might not survive in a state that we'd like but it would survive.
fire off as many nukes as you like but come back in 10 million years and you'll find whatever the rats evolved into hunting each other through the forests of asia and the only remains of our civilisation will be a thin layer of dust containing higher than normal levels of uranium in the rock layers.
If you don't think the rats and cockroaches will survive then bacteria will. There are bacteria which can survive inside the heart of nuclear reactors then we're not going to kill off the biosphere with just a few hundred thousand nukes.
Even if we could blot out the sun entirely for a million years the things living around vents in the deeps of the ocean would keep going as if nothing had happened.

We will never kill the earth, even in a worst case senario we'll be nowhere near as bad as some of the significant events of the past like asteroid hits and super volcanos.

But we could kill ourselves, like bacteria in a dish slowly killing themselves with the products of their own metabolism.

Get your facts straight (3, Interesting)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030947)

No, "we" don't have thousands of ten warhead MIRV missiles (that would require a massive booster). Most MIRV missiles are in the range of two to four warheads, and the US only intends to have just over 2000 operational warheads in the near future (with a handful of two warhead MIRV missiles).

Also from the most recent material I have read the threat of a "nuclear winter" was a gross beat up. We have had multiple volcanic events that discharged more particles into the atmosphere than would happen with optimal usage of warheads to cause a "nuclear winter", and in a normal scenario they wouldn't be used optimally for that scenario.

Additionally long time large increases in radioactivity can not happen. Most fall out from a nuclear attack is gone in weeks, what is left is not enough to destroy life. Something like Chernobyl is far more dangerous to the bio-sphere, and the Chernobyl area is still teeming with life.

Global thermonuclear war is not an extinction level event with even the levels of armament at the peak of the Cold War.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (3, Interesting)

gutnor (872759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030955)

At the very least, humanity as we know it would be completely destroyed.

With the knowledge infrastructure destroyed, and pressing need to work on primary survival needs, it will only take a few generations to completely wipe out hundred year of scientific advance.

And even if a bit of infrastructure and "pockets" of advanced civilization remain, what is the chance that they will be even remotely like our civilization, even if only by their approach to "science" and "progress".

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (4, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030329)

its ok Obama will save us

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030633)

its ok Obama will save us

I'll take him over the one that can't pronounce nuclear.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030361)

Don't forget the biological and chemical weapons.

The thing that's most likely to get humankind is a pandemic flu strain.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (4, Insightful)

coder111 (912060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030421)

There are too many humans for that to work. There will be a percentage of population that is resistant. Even the worst pandemics didn't kill >30% of population. This would be enough to disrupt civilized way of live for a while, but not the "end of world".

If we go into biotechnology, I'm more scared of completely synthetic viruses/bacterias/nanobots. Our current tech is still way off, but one day it will be possible to create things for which humans have no resistance whatsoever. Something like polyethylene membrane coated bacterias. I know this specific example wouldn't work, but if something as exotic was created, our immune system would be completely helpless.

And chemical weapons are not even that scary. You need quite a lot of chemicals to cover a relatively small area. And most dangerous ones are organic and get broken down/degraded in nature. I don't think you would be able to kill >1% of world population even if you tried with chemical weapons. And to destroy entire biosphere- impossible.

--Coder

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (2, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030885)

Give a disease enough time to find the right combination and it may end up with a lethality high enough to keep the remaining humans so far apart that the possibility of procreation may be very low.

And it may be enough with a disease that causes sterility.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030673)

Oh c'mon, that threat scenario is SO 80s! Contemporize, man, it's the Terrorists now, not the Communists.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (1)

spintriae (958955) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030749)

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (1)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030927)

Dispite popular opinion, I'm not sure the human race is quite ready/foolish enough to just throw in the towel and blast one and other into the beyond.

The idea that the people in power are somehow "stoopid" is a silly liberal concept wheeled out whenever they don't understand the true motives of said leaders, granted they may not reflect out interests, but it's in nobodies interest for Fallout to become a reality tomorrow.

My vote? Something shitty, environmental and globally insignificant will happen and we'll all die within a few years (of the event, not writing this) in a rather dull, unaviodable and unglamorous fashion.

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (0, Redundant)

TOGSolid (1412915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030971)

Shall we play a game?

Re:Um, global thermonuclear war? (1)

Amiralul (1164423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030977)

You've obviously never heard of cobalt thorium G. Cobalt thorium G has a radioactive halflife of ninety three years. If you take, say, fifty H-bombs in the hundred megaton range and jacket them with cobalt thorium G, when they are exploded they will produce a doomsday shroud. A lethal cloud of radioactivity which will encircle the earth for ninety three years!

nuclear holocaust still most likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030211)

Even after the cold war I still consider the nuclear destruction of mankind the most likely event.

100 years from now, everybody will have nuclear weapons (if they weren't used before).

Most likely scenario (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030221)

I am surprised that none of them have the most likely scenario. Two nuclear powers have a go at eachother destroying everything.

Re:Most likely scenario (5, Interesting)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030369)

Even the most retarded religious fundamentalist understands that dropping a nuclear bomb on someone who has one, or has a country which has one for a friend, isn't such a bright idea.

No, more likely, the world (or more precisely Humanity, the planet would do better without than with us on it) will slip back to feudalism as cheap energy resources wane, and a sizable portion of the earth population will be destroyed by an ugly, multi-decade, low-level world war fueled by bigotry and poverty.

Re:Most likely scenario (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030601)

Even the most retarded religious fundamentalist understands that dropping a nuclear bomb on someone who has one, or has a country which has one for a friend, isn't such a bright idea.

snip

Even actually been to the middle east ?

Some of the fundamentalists BELIEVE in their god. They don't care if they all die, so long as they go to heaven.

Re:Most likely scenario (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26031001)

Even the most retarded religious fundamentalist understands that dropping a nuclear bomb on someone who has one, or has a country which has one for a friend, isn't such a bright idea.

snip

Even actually been to the middle east ?

Some of the fundamentalists BELIEVE in their god. They don't care if they all die, so long as they go to heaven.

That's just neocon propaganda. In reality the governments of Iran and North Korea are made up of rational people who will always act in their countries' long term best interests despite their rhetoric. They are totally unlike the US government which will screw up and start wars because of the sort term interest of the ruling class and/or a miscalculation and plunge the world into chaos.

Religious fanatics (2, Insightful)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030605)

Even the most retarded religious fundamentalist understands that dropping a nuclear bomb on someone who has one, or has a country which has one for a friend, isn't such a bright idea.

For some religious fanatics, it would be a bonus if the other country wiped them out in retaliation, as that would ensure all citizens a free ticket to paradise.

Usually it is not a problem, the people in the top of the hierarchies will tend to be people who are mostly interested in using religion to ensure their own power, and have no hurry to give up earthly delight for paradise. The dangerous time is right after a revolution, where you risk getting people in power who actually believe in the stuff they preach.

Re:Religious fanatics (1)

allcar (1111567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030983)

An excellent point, well made. The real believers rarely make it to power, as they are, by definition, utter retards. However, the example of George W Bush makes me quite afraid and as for Sarah Palin...

Re:Most likely scenario (0, Flamebait)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030967)

No, more likely, the world (or more precisely Humanity, the planet would do better without than with us on it) will slip back to feudalism as cheap energy resources wane, and a sizable portion of the earth population will be destroyed by an ugly, multi-decade, low-level world war fueled by bigotry and poverty.

If there's one thing I can't stand it's bigotry. Well that and the French.

Re:Most likely scenario (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030493)

I don't find that very likely since it would be so fucking stupid (and not kill everyone in the world either unless someone says "then fuck all!")

Overdue, eh? (5, Insightful)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030229)

I always love it when people say these things. Point of fact, we don't have enough data points to make this prediction. At best, that's a wild conjecture.

Magnetic field reversal is the new 2k bug. (2, Interesting)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030509)

Do you happen to know which data points we have?

Anyway I think it will just be another year 2000 fiasco, lots of worries and then nothing happens.

Sure it may fuck up all satellites and some communication but so what? It's not the end of the world.

Re:Magnetic field reversal is the new 2k bug. (4, Informative)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030735)

Do you happen to know which data points we have?

Anyway I think it will just be another year 2000 fiasco, lots of worries and then nothing happens.

Sure it may fuck up all satellites and some communication but so what? It's not the end of the world.

Actually we have data points going back millions of years. They show flips of the magnetic field happening more frequently, and the current state we are in (with north at the north pole) has been this way longer than most of the other flips lasted.

And no, it won't end the world at all. The world has been through millions of these flips and lasted just fine.
It's ironic how a lot of people confuse 'the end of the world' and 'the end of us'

But as a further point, it's not believed a pole reversal would just kill all humans.
When a flip happens, there are many poles, IE there could be 8 or 10 of each a north and south pole.
Each pole should roughly have a magnetic strength that totals our current one, thus each 'pole' is weaker.
Only people living under these roaming spots need worry, and even then its only expected to give another 10000 cases of cancer a year (give or take an order of magnitude, going from poor memory here)

Defiantly sucks, but not the end of anything.
Sadly, the same is true for a lot of things on the articles list. Only life is screwed (maybe), but the planet will be fine.

Re:Magnetic field reversal is the new 2k bug. (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030789)

Only people living under these roaming spots need worry

Do the uranions go up out of these poles or down into them?

I need to know whether to invest in an extra heavy foil hat or lead boots.

Re:Magnetic field reversal is the new 2k bug. (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030921)

The most likely end of a big part of humanity&civilization is probably huge numbers of ourselves. Either thru fight about resources, fast spreading of some disease (but even then, say it would kill 99 % of all humans, how will that stop is from repopulating? What will beat us?), messed up food production as has already been suggested, thru greenhouse gases, or whatever.

I assume that's much more likely than most other things since it could happen real soon (not meaning say 2 years, but say 10, 100, 1000 or 10.000.)

But as long as those things don't kill all humans I don't really see what would stop us from coming back? What would beat us?

If there is a huge catastrophe killing plenty of animal species among us we're obviously screwed. I think it's hard to kill all life on the planet as long as it has liquid water somewhere.

One thing is for sure in either case, cockroaches will survive us.

Re:Magnetic field reversal is the new 2k bug. (2, Informative)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030775)

Sorry for the double reply.

If you can find this show, it is a really interesting watch
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/magnetic/reversals.html [pbs.org]

They do show how the data points are collected, how they are relevant, and even has some of those funny number things i couldn't recall myself:

You could perhaps take comfort in the knowledge that these reversals happen infrequently--on average every 250,000 years--but maybe not when you consider that it's been over 700,000 years since the last reversal, and the next one may be currently underway.

Also pretty graphs showing the length of periods between reversals, and some more of those funny numbers, at our best friend:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_reversal [wikipedia.org]

and more buried in a longer article if you wanna pick through it at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth's_magnetic_field [wikipedia.org]

72 million years worth of data points back from now.

The rate of reversals in the Earth's magnetic field has varied widely over time. 72 million years ago (Ma), the field reversed 5 times in a million years. In a 4-million-year period centered on 54 Ma, there were 10 reversals; at around 42 Ma, 17 reversals took place in the span of 3 million years. In a period of 3 million years centering on 24 Ma, 13 reversals occurred. No less than 51 reversals occurred in a 12-million-year period, centering on 15 million years ago. These eras of frequent reversals have been counterbalanced by a few "superchrons" -- long periods when no reversals took place, as described below.[5]

It had generally been assumed that the frequency of geomagnetic reversals is random, and it was shown in 2006 that the known reversals conform to a Lévy distribution.

Hopefully those will be interesting, and at least point you in the right direction.

Re:Magnetic field reversal is the new 2k bug. (2, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030905)

Do you happen to know which data points we have?

Yup. We have a whole ocean's floor worth of data points.

Re:Overdue, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030535)

I always love it when people say these things. Point of fact, we don't have enough data points to make this prediction. At best, that's a wild conjecture.

you're a wild conjecture.

Radio show? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030235)

Hey, I finally have an excuse to not RTFA!

Re:Radio show? (2, Funny)

Jeoh (1393645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030247)

Hey, I finally have an excuse to not RTFA!

LTTFA!

vogons? (5, Funny)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030239)

no interstellar bypass?

Re:vogons? (1)

Meumeu (848638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030507)

There's #10: alien invasion, close enough...

forgot one (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030245)

I've seen how the world ends.

SPOILER ALERT

Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham drown in a helicopter.

It's going to be .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030263)

Hostile Von Neumann probes.

What's really disconcerting (4, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030269)

It's not how likely or unlikely those various doomsday scenarios are. What's disconcerting are the significant number of plausible and possible doomsday scenarios. It's not a matter of if, it's more of a matter of when.

I sincerely hope that we'll be able to set up colonies on other planets or in other solar systems before something snuffs out life on Earth. Our survival as a species will depend on it.

Re:What's really disconcerting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030395)

I disagree. If there is only one doomsday scenario but it is almost certain, then that is much more disconcerting than 10 doomsday scenarios with 0.01% probability each. What's really important is the sum of probabilities, not the number of scenarios.

Re:What's really disconcerting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030587)

But setting up colonies on other worlds would cost money we could be giving to Africa!

Re:What's really disconcerting (3, Interesting)

AngelofDeath-02 (550129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030641)

I'm just curious - but why do you care about our survival as a species in an event that may not happen in the foreseeable future?

I mean, this goes beyond caring about yourself, your children, or your children's children. This goes a bit beyond survival instinct.

Re:What's really disconcerting (2, Insightful)

upside (574799) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030709)

Looking at what we've done to this planet, I'm not so sure the survival of our species is in anyone else's interest.

OTOH making some lifeless planets flourish could be the greatest thing our species has done.

Magnetic reversal (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030271)

If the reversal of the magnetic poles happens so often and yet there still is life on this planet, why would it kill us?

Re:Magnetic reversal (2, Interesting)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030389)

because when the earth's magnetic field reached zero temporily (it doesn't actually reached zero, it becomes chaotic, but let's assume), it stops shielding us from solar radiations, meaning cancers, mutations, and general baking of higher level lifeforms on the planet.

It has happened before, but modern humans weren't there to suffer from it. As for other lifeforms, most of them are a lot tougher than we are.

Re:Magnetic reversal (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030899)

Also don't forget that 99% of the life on earth has a lower life expectancy and thus faster propagation cycle than us. When an animal dies of cancer after 4 years that has a life expectancy of 6 and is fertile with two, life can go on.

When humans die at age 6 on average, we die out.

Re:Magnetic reversal (1)

tchiseen (1315299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030987)

Humans are very squishy indeed. Having said that extinction due to massively decreased life expectancy isn't as much fun as a massive meteor.

Re:Magnetic reversal (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26031033)

As for other lifeforms, most of them are a lot tougher than we are.

We humans seem to have a massive inferiority complex sometimes. We are an extremely tough organism with viable colonies in almost every region of the planet except Antarctica and undersea. We're the only organism that will understand the consequences of a magnetic field issue and be able to take preemptive steps to adapt to it. We can design satillites that can survive the harsh stresses of space, so in the worst case, we can redesign critical electronics to survive here on earth or just burrow underground for shielding. Yes, we might have to shock to our comfortable western lifespans/standards of living, but I don't fear for the survival of our species.

Re:Magnetic reversal (2, Insightful)

weirdo557 (959623) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030393)

because people like to store their porn on magnetic media these days

Re:Magnetic reversal (1)

Jeoh (1393645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030433)

Wouldn't this make it more likely for the human race to survive? More people actually going out for the real thing (or trying to re-create their precious porn)

Re:Magnetic reversal (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030519)

Yeah but how would we learn how to do it!?!

Overdue? (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030277)

A reversal of the Earth's magnetic field is not overdue, because it was never due. The universe hasn't promised in advance to flip the field every n years without fail. People shouldn't still be anthropomorphizing natural phenomena.

Re:Overdue? (3, Interesting)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030415)

"Overdue" has no anthropomorphic undertone. If the Haley comet shows up one year late next time around, it'll be one year overdue.

As for the Earth's magnetic field reversal, they have occured regularly and very often in the past, so the next one is overdue, period. Same as the Big One in California. It has nothing to do with people promising anything, it's just a matter of probabilities.

Re:Overdue? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030417)

Think of it as being past the 50th percentile on the probability distribution, not past the 100th percentile.

Re:Overdue? (4, Funny)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030609)

People shouldn't still be anthropomorphizing natural phenomena.

Yeah, the universe hates that.

Exit Mundi (4, Informative)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030291)

More and better scenarios:

Exit Mundi [exitmundi.nl]

Forgotten Russian doomsday machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030305)

Yep, it is still collecting dust somewhere.. in that poverty stricken shadowlands.

Jerry Springer Ending. (2, Funny)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030313)

The Earth and it's inhabitants are killed by inbreeding, living in one mass trailer park and one massive tornado sweeping it clean.

This is obviously the real ending.

More plausible than alien invasion... (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030321)

Strangelets created in the LHC.
Nuclear conflict.
Mutated airborne filovirus
Mutated bird-flu like virus.
Biological warfare.
Monsanto-like genetically engineered "terminator" crops pollute and replace normal food.

Re:More plausible than alien invasion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030385)

Out of curiosity, how would the "terminator" crops scenario work? If they die by themselves every year rather than reproduce, how could they pollinate other crops? There is of course the scenario that they all became very prevalent start to cross-pollinate with other crops, but if it happens in one area of the world you could just stop replanting those in all other parts.

Re:More plausible than alien invasion... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030429)

And what do you eat while waiting for the next harvest?

Re:More plausible than alien invasion... (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030483)

Meat? Food imported from *gasp* OTHER countries?

Re:More plausible than alien invasion... (3, Funny)

daniorerio (1070048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030503)

Soylent Green?

Re:More plausible than alien invasion... (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030613)

It's what people are made off?

Perpetual motion machines!

Too late, it's gone. (4, Funny)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030335)

According to the International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board [slashdot.org] , the current "Earth-Destruction Alert Level" is "RED". Which means that the Earth has been destroyed.
A quote from the FAQ:

My baby's in there!

Your baby has most likely been destroyed.

----

Anyway, for you deluded fools who think the Earth is still around, take head of this warning:

The Earth is built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

Obviously it's a little out of date now, 'cause those rascals at CERN managed the job, but still...

I note that the fools from the article don't actually want to destroy the Earth (well maybe one or two of the scenarios might break it apart or something), otherwise they would have come up with some scenarios like:

  • Annihilated by an equivalent quantity of antimatter
  • Cooked in a solar oven
  • Meticulously and systematically deconstructed

(Quote and methods from How to destroy the Earth [qntm.org] .)

Fools, I'll show them all!

Re:Too late, it's gone. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030419)

No mod points, so I'll follow up to highlight your very valid point: TFA doesn't speak of destroying the Earth. Only lesser achievements such as destroying (in increasing order of ambitiousness) civilisation, human life, all life.

Re:Too late, it's gone. (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030661)

Civilisation? Not a big deal (maybe somewhat if we would be the only life in universe, but then it has worked ok before without us so ..)

Human life? Who cares, all species die, everyone would be happier without us.

All life? No biggie if there is life in other places either. Not very likely for plenty of human doomsday scenarios either.

Re:Too late, it's gone. (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030639)

than you've had hot dinners

Well duh! I haven't had one yet.

Not much to brag about.

Circle of Life (2, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030379)

Paris Hilton decides she wants to take a vacation at the International Space Station, at which point nerds lose the will to live and there's nobody left to invent things that take peoples minds off of having sex which in turn causes our populations to spike followed by us consuming all of the earths vegetation and eventually turning to cannibalism and wiping ourselves out.

Meanwhile the ISS loses power and Paris turns into a popcicle, which is discovered by an alien probe millions of years from now sent to seed a now Mars-like earth with vegetation so they can migrate from their dying planet to a new home and the aliens attempt to clone the Paris-cicle using pieces of their DNA ultimately starting the cycle all over again.

After it all we never do find out how the earth ends, but at least we discover why Paris is so fucking weird.

Re:Circle of Life (3, Funny)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030501)

You do realise how much trouble posting the Scientology creation story here is going to cause, don't you?

Re:Circle of Life (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030575)

Holy shit, I think I might be a Scientologist, what should I do ?

Re:Circle of Life (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030883)

As good as any.

Let me save you millions of years (1)

PeDRoRist (639207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030729)

That's because she's a spoiled bitch.

magnetic reversals are not periodic (5, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030441)

Perhaps the most terrifying prediction is the reversal of the Earth's magnetic field (combined with untimely solar activity), a periodic event which is currently 1/4 million years overdue.

From the record of paleomagnetism found in spreading ocean floors, the reversals are anything but periodic. Reversals recur, but the interval between reversals can be less than 25 thousand years, or longer than 35 million years. In other words, the intervals between reversals vary in duration by a factor of more than 1000.

The oceanic record is limited to the last 200 million years, at most. It has been extended further back by correlating measurements from continental rocks formed at different times, and relying on models for tectonic drift. This naturally yields inferences with lower confidence and limited time resolution. However, the results suggest that geomagnetic field has occasionally been stable for more than 50 million years at a time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_reversal [wikipedia.org]

Given that their occurrence is erratic rather than periodic, and that there is no decent model for predicting their occurrence, the assertion that a magnetic reversal is "overdue" is absurd.

The scaremongering that a reversal would lead to "the end of the world" or mass extinctions is equally puerile. Reversals of the geomagnetic field show no particular correlation with extinctions in the past.

Eat the planet (1)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030459)

In my (to be written someday) novel, the Earth is eaten by giant space worms and converted into minerals for the worm farmers to use as food.

Soon? Probable ones? (2, Informative)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030475)

Some of those events will happen but in very long time (afaik for sun expanding enough will take some millons of years) or have very low odds to happen or even could be impossible according with our current knowledge (alien invasion? had to be the suggestion of the sci-fi writer).

Sometimes a chain of events is more possible than a single event, specially if those single events counts on rogue black holes getting very close to us. Global warming (something with a bit higher probabilities to happen) maybe wont end us alone, but it could trigger more things (mass emigration, spreading of diseases, extintions of some key species, war, etc) that eventually could finish the work.

So this is how the world ends.... (1)

volpe (58112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030479)

ObPortman:

".. with thunderous applause"?

For an interesting book on the topic... (3, Interesting)

Enter the Shoggoth (1362079) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030487)

... by someone who was both scientist and science fiction author, a little dated now perhaps, but still an excellent read:

A Choice of Catastrophes [amazon.com]

Worm Hibernation (1)

alienunknown (1279178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030489)

Am I the only one here that skipped the first part of the article and thought for a moment that the end of the world was going to be caused by worm hibernation, Robo-Lizards and Fungus-faced bats?

Re:Worm Hibernation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030845)

Yep me too!!
But then at least we managed to actually RTFA

Why do we do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030529)

These are the same people, or logical extensions of the same people who predicted "all that could be explored had been explored" in the 40's. Then the transistor, the nuclear age, the information age.

And don't get me started on flying cars.

Remember the recent 'pre-historic re-write' where most of the animals we grew up learning in school were changed?

Remember the scientists predicting calamity in Y2K?

Remember "with billions of star systems, planets like ours must be common" but the best they can get is like us with 10G and crappy cable TV.

Science doesn't have a high accuracy about current reality...like wasting 100 Years and 150 million lives on Darwin. Like the time wasted listening to Dr Freud, and Dr Spock. And now they want to chill us with ways the planet *could* meet an end.

Why bother?

Bah! (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030533)

They didn't ask sam512, so why bother?

Missed a couple of obvious ones (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030667)

No mention of nuclear holocaust (As others have noted), Global warming turning the earth into Venus or a giant mutant stellar goat devouring the planet whole. But at least the didn't mention the LHC.

We can do it ourselves without any help. (1)

Wizardess (888790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030669)

It will happen due to a simple slip-up by an 11 year old playing with his Kiddie Gene Splicing Kit that produces a universal killer virus.

That is to say, we'll to it to ourselves by simple mistakes.

{^_^}

Tralfamadorians end the world, duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030787)

The world already ended, just in a different time. We already know how the world was going to end, many Tralfamadorians have visited it, and returned from it.

A Tralfamadorian will try a new source of fuel, destroying the entire Universe (which includes the Earth AFAIK).

The most probable one is always forgotten... (4, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030849)

Overpopulation will kill us all before anything else...resources like oil and metals will be exhausted in the coming decades! the dramatic changes in the climate caused by human activity, the cutting down of rain forests will cause the populations of third world countries to migrate en mass to Europe and North America, further increasing the fights for the remaining resources...

Re:The most probable one is always forgotten... (1)

dutchd00d (823703) | more than 5 years ago | (#26030979)

Overpopulation will kill us all before anything else...

Right. Too many people living will kill all people. That's like saying severe flooding will cause droughts.

I know what you mean, but think it through: overpopulation may cause famine, disease, whatever. This kills off some percentage of humans (10%, 50%, 90%, whatever). The survivors have plenty of resources again and thrive, until the next crisis. It may be bad, but it's not going to be the end of humanity (don't even talk about the planet)

A not so obvious assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030865)

So exactly why should we be concerned about the survival of the human species in the first place?

WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26030923)

When the world ends, the edge of our universe turns blue with weird alien glyphs in white telling god to reboot.

Death From The Skies! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26031013)

Either by coincidence, or because it acted as inspiration for the radio show, Phil Plait (of "Bad Astronomy" fame) recently published Death From The Skies!, a book which is basically a big catalogue of astronomical doomsday scenarios and how plausible and likely they are. Probably worth looking at. I'd recommend it, but I'm not allowed it in the house for reasons too complex to go into.
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