Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Will The World End?


Many prophets, mystics, and scientists have been predicting the end of the world since the dawn of civilization. After all life suddenly ended for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Couldn't it happen again? What could usher in an apocalypse?

Getting Crushed From Above Somehow: Many believe that the dinosaurs went extinct when a giant asteroid crashed into the earth, changing the climate. It's largely suspected that when it hit most of the giant beasts died within a few hours because of a massive heat wave released by its entry. Then all of the debris from the collision scattered around the atmosphere blocking out the sun causing an ice age. The space rock that caused all of this damage is thought to have been at least 5km in diameter. In 2002 astronomers began to track an asteroid that is 2km wide that will come close to the earth. Named, '2002 NT7' it is now known that it will pass by us safely in 2019. However, in 2002, a smaller one passed by the earth being even closer than the moon. It was about 100 meters wide and if it had hit would have caused destruction equivalent of an atom bomb.

Plague: In the 14th century the Black Plague killed half of the Chinese population. From there it spread westward hitting Europe. In total it may have wiped out as many as 100 million people. Could a global pandemic end the world as we know it? It's possible and even likely. Disease causing microbes are becoming drug resistant which is to say that newer and stronger antibiotics are needed as they build up a tolerance to the chemicals that are trying to kill them. This has been happening with Tuberculosis. It is likely that 1/3 of everyone in the world carries the virus for TB. When someone in a wealthy country has an outbreak of the disease they are usually tested to see if they have the drug-resistant strain. In poorer places they don't have the resources. India has about two million cases a year while China has one million. Just this year what doctors call TDR TB (totally drug-resistant) has broken out in India and before that had been seen in Iran.  As a disease that's spread through the air, the infection rates are high as one person can pass it on to hundreds.

Nuclear Annihilation: A likely possibility in the 1980s but now that the USA and Russia are the best of friends it's virtually impossible. There's not much to worry about with this one because it will take countries like North Korea and Iran years to build up a stockpile big enough to wipe out all life on the planet as we know it.

Waterworld: It may have been the most expensive box-office failure but is it also the future of mankind? Nope. Much of the ice in the polar region is floating and Antarctica is simply too cold to ever melt. If the north pole melts it will only replace the floating ice that it is displacing. The oceans are rising due to shrinking glaciers. So while places at sea level are in for some flooding, Denver will never be submerged..

Death by Volcano: Forget about being crushed from above somehow. The real danger lies deep within the earth itself. Yellowstone National Park may be an idyllic tourist spot but it also has the power to wipe out all life on the planet. That's because it's a supervolcano. The geysers and hot springs that make the park famous are powered by a sea of magma thought to be 6 miles down and 30 miles wide and another 6 miles deep. And the bad news is that the ground there has been slowly going up as pressure builds. One of the largest volcanoes there is, the last time it erupted was 640,000 years ago. Now some think we're overdue. If it goes off it could wipe out North America and the debris it scatters into the atmosphere would block out the sun. In 1816 a regular volcano went off in Indonesia sending an estimated 93 cubic miles of ash into the atmosphere. 1816 became known as the year without a summer as the earth's temperature cooled and crops failed. People starved to death in Europe because of it.

Alien Invasion: For years we have been unwittingly broadcasting signals into outer space. Could unfriendly alien life be listening? The SETI Institute is even doing the possibly unwise thing of actively looking for extraterrestrial beings.

 



1 comments:

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