Prof. Disbrow gives us a nice range of choices for the end of the world
In case you missed it, the world was destroyed last week. As a result, most, if not all, of you that are reading this are currently undergoing eternal torment of some sort. (Probably related to bike lanes.)
Given that the world was destroyed by a Deity (I didn’t catch which one), I must say that I’m very embarrassed. Years of trusting in reason, logic and the scientific method, and it turns out that I was totally wrong. My bad.
Armageddon aside, it is pretty sweet that I don’t have to turn in a full column this month. So, I guess I’ll sign off by saying, quite appropriately: See you in Hell!
Annnnnd…I’ve just been informed by The Editor (who thinks he’s a Deity), that the world didn’t actually end. It was just another failed apocalypse prediction by some “fringe” cult. Honestly! You’d think they’d get their facts straight before making these announcements. I gave away all my worldly goods for nothing!
But, this begs the question: What would it take to destroy the world? I mean, for real?
When most people think of “The End of the World,” they really mean “The End of Human Civilization.” The planet itself wouldn’t notice we were gone. But, last week’s prediction stipulated that the world would be “annihilated.” To me, that sounds like the planet would be gone at the end of the day. Scary!
In either case, humanity would definitely be gone. So, let’s look at both results and see how difficult it would be to achieve them.
So let's start with the end of civilization. Good news, apocalypse lovers! At our current tech level, this is pretty simple to do.
Global Thermonuclear War: The classic! The initial exchange would kill vast numbers of people immediately, destroy most infrastructure, and give most survivors fatal radiation poisoning. Plus, the dust and dirt thrown into the atmosphere would plunge the world into a decades-long twilight/ice age. (aka “nuclear winter”). Plants would have trouble growing, the food chain would collapse and Internet would be spotty at best.
Super-Virus: Remember Ebola? There’s probably something 100 times worse out there in the jungle right now. And it’s just waiting to jump into a lion-hunting dentist and take the red eye back to NYC. Given the interconnectedness of our civilization, speed of travel, and our basic disdain for personal hygiene, a really vicious virus could take us out pretty quickly.
Gamma Burst: When a massive star collapses, it emits a huge burst of gamma radiation. This travels through space at the speed of light, frying anything that gets in its way. The bad news is that these things are popping off all the time and one could hit the Earth at any moment. When it does, it will basically ruin everyone’s day on the side of the planet that gets hit. Good news: Space is BIG, so, the odds of us getting hit are small. Bad news: There’s evidence to suggest that it’s already happened, causing a mass extinction about 500 million years ago.
Super Solar Flare: A huge solar flare hits the Earth and trashes our technological infrastructure. Then things go from “Look at the Pretty Lights in the Sky” to “Let’s kill the neighbors for food” in a couple of weeks. Honestly, this one is 50/50. People are good at responding to technical challenges, so humanity might actually rise to the occasion and save itself here.
Climate Change: Spoiler alert: It’s already happening! (See my feature article a couple months back for details on this one.)
But that's just civilization. What about the end of the planet itself? This is harder to do, simply because the Earth is so freaking big. But, it’s doable.
Black Hole: If a black hole passed through our solar system, it could either swallow the Earth or knock it out of its orbit and possibly into the Sun. Either way, the Earth would be gone.
Celestial Impacts: A black hole or other massive object could also pass near or through the solar system and send a slew of comets or asteroids towards us. Enough impacts and the Earth would eventually be reduced to rubble.
Swallowed by the Sun: Actually, this is going to happen…in about five billion years. The Sun will swell up and swallow all the planets of the inner solar system, including the Earth.
Death Star: What? The Death Star isn’t real! I’m only discussing real things here. Like, black holes, viruses and a ticked-off Deity. You should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting such silly nonsense.
Steven Disbrow is a computer programmer who specializes in e-commerce and mobile systems development. He’s also an entrepreneur, comic-book nerd, writer, improviser, actor, sometime television personality and parent of two human children.