For years and years everyone from science fiction writers to scientists have been talking about all of these scenarios and what not about how the world will end (be it by our own hands, or a random act of nature).
While I find many of these scenarios interesting, many of them have a common flaw: they don’t actually end the Earth, just human civilization, and perhaps the human species.
So, how exactly could the Earth REALLY be destroyed (as in cease to exist)?
Well I’ve thought about it, and I’ve come up with about 11 different ways of how it could happen.
So if you don’t mind possibly being scared to death, below are those 11 possible scenarios:
• Planetary impact
We all know the dangers that a direct impact from either a comet or meteor poses to the Earth as it has been the subject of several movies and books, and is a legitimate threat because it has happened before, and it has wiped out entire species and caused major damage to the Earth throughout our planet’s history.
While some people might believe that it would be the end of the world if a large meteor or comet was to hit us today, it wouldn’t be. It might be the end of human civilization, maybe even our species, but the world will still exist… unless something really big, or really heavy was to hit us…
Lets say something nearly the size of the Earth, or bigger, was to hit us, or something very heavy like a neutron star. The fact is that there would be no way for the Earth to survive an impact by something close to, or larger, or heavier than the Earth. Our world would be broken apart and probably turned into an asteroid field by such an impact.
• High speed impact
The amount of damage a object can do not only depends on how large an object is, but also by how fast said object is going.
A one mile wide meteor hitting the Earth would be devastating. If that one mile wide meteor was to hit the Earth while traveling nearly the speed of light, the amount of kinetic energy released from such an impact would rip the Earth apart, and we wouldn’t even know it until it actually happened (assuming we survived long enough) because such an object would most likely be impossible to find, let alone track.
A von Neumann machine is a type of robot first conceived of by John von Neumann (hence the name) that can basically self replicate, and could even manufacture materials on it’s own in order to do so. It would even be possible for it to seek out the resources it needs to manufacture those materials.
While such a machine would be an extraordinary leap forward in terms of robotics and manufacturing, some people fear that one day one of those robots could go haywire (or someone could build one for the purpose of unregulated self replicating) and continue to self replicate without knowing when to shut off, and ultimately end up destroying the Earth a small part at a time until there is nothing left.
While a larger machine might not actually be able to do this before we stopped it, a small machine like a nano-probe might just be able to do this.
• Knocked into the sun
Lets say a very large object (like a star) was to pass through our solar system, what do you think would happen?
The answer is that the Earth would be knocked out of orbit.
After that one of two things would then happen: The Earth would be knocked away from the sun and become a rogue planet (as well as a giant ball of ice), or we would get knocked into the sun and be burnt into nothing.
If you’ve ever seen Star Wars then you probably know what I’m talking about, if you don’t then I’ll explain (although I do still recommend seeing Star Wars).
A laser is a device that creates a focused beam of light that can actually be quiet destructive, and depending on how much energy you put into the laser, it’s destructive power can range from being harmless (unless you look directly into the beam) to being used to take out a vehicle. Taking this in mind it is theoretically possible to build a laser powerful to destroy the Earth.
Fortunately we don’t have to worry about this one right now due to the fact that the total amount of energy produced world wide is no where near enough to power a laser that would be capable of doing so.
- Can Data Flow Help Us Escape the von Neumann Machine? (programming.oreilly.com)
- How Self-Replicating Spacecraft Could Take Over the Galaxy (io9.com)
- Huge Russian meteor was ‘a wake-up call for humanity’ (itv.com)
- Risk of Meteors Smashing Into Earth Bigger Than Thought (sorendreier.com)