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End of the World as We Know It

Robert Frost speculated about the world ending in fire or in ice. Which do you think is likely to end us all: meteorite, global warming, nuclear weapons, zombies, or the superflu?

Answers (271)

  • A super-fast super-dense meteorite will crash into the moon, shattering it into millions of pieces, the bulk of which will rain down onto Earth for over a hundred years. Humans, who have colonized Mars in anticipation of this event, will later return to Earth to enslave the survivors who have mutated into cockroach-tough folk, using them to mine a strange material that has come seeping from Earth's core. This material will be used to create a sentient force intent on nullifying everything in existence but a band of misfits (ex-slaves and rebel scientists) who have created cybernetically and genetically altered super dudes, originally intended to liberate the enslaved populace from bondage, will kill the malevolent force, saving the entire universe but imploding planet Earth in the process. I know this sounds like a bad 90s sci-fi adventure starring Bruce Willis and a bunch of big fiery explosions, but it is all too true. For the Bible tells me so. ETA: This will be a dark comedy.

  • Zombies, of course. If the Zombie Apocalypse doesn't happen, all my careful preparations will be for naught.

    Of the disasters listed, which really presents an existential risk?

    By themselves, nuclear weapons and the superflu don't. It's very difficult to imagine a scenario where either could directly kill every single member of the species. We could imagine a worst case scenario where either destroyed civilization so completely that the survivors never manage to get back on their feet, and the species then dies out over some much longer span of time. But a worst case nuclear war just wouldn't kill everybody, and a really deadly virus tends to be self limiting.

    (You might be able to kill everybody with nuclear weapons if you really tried. There's no theoretical limit to the size of a thermonuclear weapon, so we could imagine truly huge devices. Say a hundred gigatons. Then we salt the bombs with cobalt and detonate them at strategic locations in each hemisphere. If we do it right, the radioactive fallout would saturate the entire planet with a lethal dose. That could kill everything which wasn't several hundred feet down a mineshaft. Add some other long halflife radionuclides into the mix to make the surface uninhabitable for generations and you really could kill everyone. But it's not the sort of thing that ever could have happened in reality, even in the worst case spasm exchange at the height of the cold war.)

    Meteorites really do pose an existential risk, but the chance of being hit by anything big enough to kill everything are astronomically low. We get hit by Tunguska-size objects perhaps once a century, Dinosaur killers turn up every few tens of millions of years. We haven't been hit by anything much bigger than that since the Noachian. Now being hit by a ten kilometer rock would really be a Bad Day. The effects depend on where it hits. Could it kill everyone directly? No. But you might knock civilization back far enough that in never recovers. We're far more likely to get hit by a small object, say a hundred meters across, which would be very bad news if it landed in the middle of the Atlantic.

    Global Warming is something we're really going to have problems with. But is it an existential risk? Right now it looks like it could easily be bad enough to crash civilization, once we get up to around a six degree warming. And it's very difficult to see how we're going to avoid hitting that, looking at our current progress. There'd probably be plenty of people left, though. Or would there? It's conceivable - although I don't think anyone thinks it's likely - that you could throw Earth into a real runaway scenario. The sun's brighter now than it was the last time we had really high carbon dioxide levels. Maybe, if we're really unlucky, we could crash the whole system. Kill the planetary homeostasis that keeps it at a temperature amenable to life. First, pump out all the fossil carbon, including the coal and the oil shale. Second, destabilize all the methane. And then a final runaway from a water vapor greenhouse as the oceans boil away. We wouldn't end up quite as hot as Venus... but I don't think it's likely. We're more likely to see a six degree world with a vastly reduced population.

    So clearly it's Zombies. Especially if it's the fast ones. The problem with Zombies is that they intentionally target people and their population grows exponentially as ours shrinks. Eventually you end up with a handful of survivors holed up in a shopping mall, surrounded by the moaning hordes.

  • Please let it be zombies. Please.
  • I think the world will end in a chain of crazy unbelievable events... and our surroundings will seem none but a bad dream...yet i don't believe everyone will die.... only those who can adapt will survive.... but the question i've asked myself is in a place so dead would I be able to adapt without feeling helpless or without a cause????
  • Seriously people! None of these! First of all, zombies are ridiculous. Some people may die of superflu one day, but not ALL of us. We probablly wont DIE from global warming, but animals will. Nucleor weapons and meteorite are choices that makes since, BUT we are not  going all to die those ways. Im disapointed in alot of you. Its in the bible! We are going to end in fire. God will destroy the Earth with fire. And we will all face the judgement day. When? Maybe in 2 seconds, maybe in 200 years. Only God knows. Oh and dont say Im just being a pushy Christian shoving my belief in your face! Oh wait, I dont care what you call me. I care more about your soul then what you think of me...
  • None of those.....God will end the Earth after the 7 years of tribulation, which is after the Rapture. He will destroy it by fire. If you dont believe me, pick up a Bible.
  • Oh my god, zombies please.
  • I think i know enough of hate
    to say that for destruction ice
    is also great, and would suffice
  • Personally? I think itll be something we've created, and superflu that turns us into zombies.

    either that or we'll all turn on each other and blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons.

    But the superflu zombie thing would probably be more fun lol Ive probably seen too many films... but seriously. we've got more chance with that to survive. underground bunkers, tins of food that dont go out of date for like 5 years, make sure its near a natural spring or something. bottles of soda etc. wait it out, and then start all over again. back to the basics.

    Hmmm who knows. Im just bored. and wanted something to do lol

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