Doomsday: The End of the World Will Probably Take One of These Forms

Giorgio Tsoukalos explains popular doomsday theories -- including aliens
Giorgio Tsoukalos explains popular doomsday theories — including aliens | The History Channel

We’re all going to die. It’s going to happen, and there’s not much we can do about it. For us, individually, that’s pretty much the end, though the rest of the world moves on. Until it doesn’t. Because, just like us, the world — the Earth, really — will come to an end eventually, too. The Earth and humanity will meet its demise at some point. That’s what we typically call “doomsday”, or the end of the world.

It’s unsettling, but it’s something explored in books and movies and has been for generations. It’s hard not to think about how we’ll all meet our end, and even though it’s tough to wrap your head around, it’s something you have to mentally chew on for a while. It helps you appreciate the present, and cherish what you have.

Predicting doomsday and the end of the world

But how, exactly, do experts think doomsday will arrive? There are a number of ways the end of the world could be ushered in, and humanity may not even be around to see it. In fact, there’s a chance that humans will wipe themselves out long before the Earth succumbs to an extraterrestrial threat. But when it comes to humanity, doomsday effectively arrives when we snuff ourselves out. Here are some of the ways the world might end, and humanity with it.

1. Asteroid impact

It’s theorized that an asteroid impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. And a space rock could very well be the end for humans, too. Asteroids (and fragments) actually hit Earth all of the time, they’re just not typically very big. But a big one can and will hit eventually, causing some very serious problems. The question is whether or not we’ll have the technology available to deal with it before then.

Next: A severe sunburn.

2. The sun expands

Sun and Star with Cosmic Cloud in Space
It’s not estimated for another 7.5 billion years. | Nixxphotography/iStock/Getty Images

Here’s a scary thought: At some point, the sun will swell to such a degree that it actually consumes the entire planet. That won’t happen for an estimated 7.5 billion years, but it’s going to happen. Humanity, in all likelihood, will be long gone by then, and the Earth will be rendered uninhabitable long before the sun’s mass engulfs the planet.

Next: “__ __ sun, won’t you come…”

3. A rogue black hole or planet

Black hole
For all we know a black hole can swallow us right up. | lukutin77/iStock/Getty Images
  • There’s a lot of stuff floating around in space, and given enough time, some of it will collide with the Earth.

Asteroids are scary, but not as scary as random, rogue planets and black holes which can appear out of nowhere and slam into our planet. If that were to happen? It wouldn’t be pretty. But the odds are infinitesimal — despite what you may have read on the internet. And as for black holes? We’ll get to that a little further down the list.

Next: “Little rocket man” goes all the way.

4. Nuclear war

To large missile launch vehicles are paraded down the street in PyongYang
There’s more of a chance of nuclear war than one would hope. | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Now we’re on to a threat that is frighteningly real — much more real than a rogue planet. Nuclear war has been a constant and ongoing threat since the 1940s, and though things cooled down for a bit, the world is on edge once again as North Korea has attained nuclear weapons. We’re not looking at a Cold War scenario, in which one nation firing a nuke would cause all others to fire their own, but it’s still pretty darn scary. And very real.

Next: The Terminator becomes a reality.

5. Artificial intelligence

The idea of robots taking over is the plot of many movies. | VCG/VCG via Getty Images
  • Some experts worry about A.I., while others think our fears are overblown.

This is another potential threat to humanity that is becoming frighteningly more real as time marches on. As artificial intelligence becomes more pervasive and, well, intelligent, the idea that it will go rogue and try to enslave humanity becomes harder to ignore. While there’s a chance that could happen, many experts don’t feel that it’s nearly as big of a threat as people make it out to be. That doesn’t mean your “smart fridge” won’t one day make you pay for slamming the door, though.

Next: Nature’s way of thinning the herd.

6. Disease and plague

Ebola was thought to be the next plague. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
  • Example: The Black Death killed 60% of Europe’s population in the mid-1300s.

If you’ve been watching zombie movies, you know that disease is a serious threat. Watching zombie movies or reading history books, that is. While we’ve made headway against diseases with vaccinations and modern medical technology, you never know when a new scary and deadly bug will show up. Just look at the recent panic about Ebola for an example.

Next: Not all plagues will have natural origins.

7. Synthetic biology

Bio-weapons are a terrifying possibility. | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images

Not all diseases or plagues need to be natural. What about lab-created biological dangers? The kind of thing you read about in The Stand? They exist, and if they fall into the wrong hands — say, a terrorist or just some dullard who doesn’t understand what they’re dealing with — we could find ourselves in a lot of trouble.

Next: What happens if the Scott Pruitts of the world get their way?

8. Pollution and ecological collapse

Pollution is a genuine threat. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
  • A collapse could begin in as little as 20 years, per some reports.

Compared to lab-created bioweapons, a Pepsi can in a river seems downright mundane. But it’s pollution on a large scale that you need to worry about, and we’re already seeing troubling signs that our treatment of the planet could lead to full ecological collapse. The ecosystem is fragile, and if we screw up it, we could create a tailspin from which we never recover. If we warm the oceans, for example, we could kill the fish, starving people, and other animals, and create nasty new weather systems.

Next: Something we’re already contending with.

9. Climate change

Climate change rally
| chameleonseye/iStock/Getty Images
  • We already know about this one — climate change could lead to bigger and nastier natural disasters, famine, diseases, and more.

Speaking of nasty new weather systems, here’s a threat we’re all well-versed in by now. Climate change is occurring, and the debate is revolving around how big of an impact humanity is having on kicking a natural cycle into high gear. There are a lot of potentially devastating effects of climate change, and if we aren’t careful, we could see many of our cities underwater by the end of the century. And that’s just the beginning.

Next: Science goes wrong.

10. Biotechnology disasters

HAZMAT Team Members The Right Stuff
We’re running short on antibiotics. | BenDC/iStock/Getty Images
  • We’re already running short on antibiotics…

We already discussed man-made diseases. But what about man-made issues relating to our treatment of diseases? As you may know, we’re running into that issue head-on when it comes to antibiotics. In the simplest terms, we’re running out of effective antibiotics, and sickness-causing bacteria are growing stronger and more resistant. There are other forms a biotech disaster could take, of course, but this is the clearest and most present danger for most people.

Next: Science goes VERY wrong.

11. Failed science experiments

A scientist using a computer
Scientists assure us there’s nothing to worry about. | Getty Images
  • Particle acceleration experiments, like those at CERN, could possibly create a black hole.

Okay, so this one’s a bit out there — but there’s a chance that we could rip a hole in space-time and destroy the whole planet. This has to do with particle acceleration experiments at CERN (and other labs), where scientists assure us that there’s nothing to worry about. Scientists also assured us that igniting an atomic bomb wouldn’t light the whole atmosphere on fire, which it didn’t. But those scientists didn’t know that beforehand — though it had been theorized.

Next: A threat that’s out of this world.

12. Aliens

ufo abduction
No one really knows the extent of the threat. | homeworks255/iStock/Getty Images
  • It could be an “Independence Day” scenario come to life. And it’ll take more than a computer virus to stop them.

Yes, aliens are an actual threat. Maybe. Probably.

While we don’t know of any actual extraterrestrial threats, odds are, there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. In fact, it’s almost a statistical certainty. The question is what happens when we finally come into contact with them? If they are more advanced than us, most experts don’t think it’ll turn out well for humanity.

Next: Getting microwaved from outer space.

13. Solar flares and gamma-ray bursts

The Sun - Solar Flare
A solar flare can do massive damage. | solarseven/iStock/Getty Images

We had a near miss back in 2012, and the threat persists.

While the sun won’t consume us for billions of years, it can still belch out coronal javelins in the form of solar flares that can fry us. Solar flares are common, and they have the potential to do massive damage. But they’re not the only threat from space — gamma-ray bursts are out there too, and they can cause serious havoc as well.

Next: A burst from within.

14. Supervolcano

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National park
The supervolcano under Yellowstone is scarily overdue for an eruption. | lucky-photographer/iStock/Getty Images
  • You may be living closer to a supervolcano than you think.

You’ve probably heard the term “supervolcano” used in conjunction with Yellowstone National Park — which is a supervolcano. And, as you may have guessed, a supervolcano is exactly what it sounds like: A big volcano with unbelievable eruption power. So much power, in fact, that it could effectively wipe us out if there is an eruption. Yellowstone isn’t the only supervolcano, but it’s the one that presents the biggest danger to us in the United States.

Finally: Somebody pulls the plug.

15. The simulation comes crashing down

Neo stops hundreds of bullets in mid-aiir
The Matrix may have been on to something. | Warner Bros.
  • What if we’re all living in the Matrix? And what if somebody decides they want to shut it down?

We’ll end with the most outlandish possibility out there: The idea that we’re living in a simulation of some sort, and that it can all go to black in the blink of an eye. The odds are against it, and some scientists have even come out to confirm that we’re not merely actors in a giant video game. But then again, that might just be what the simulation’s architects programmed them to do.

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