Top 10 Things That Could Wipe Out Life On EarthSuggested by SMS
Since the beginning of time, humans have pondered the end of the world just as much as they have pondered the beginning of it. As knowledge of our world and the science that explains it has grown, mankind has become much more sophisticated in understanding what kind of phenomena could do enough damage wipe out life on Earth as we know it. While scientific advances such as antibiotics and levy systems have minimized much of the disasters that befell man in the past, there are still natural (and unnatural) disasters that we are powerless to stop. Here are the Top Ten Things That Could Wipe Out Life On Earth:
One of America’s most popular vacation destinations, Yellowstone National Park, sits atop one of the largest and most dangerous volcanoes on Earth. In fact, much of Yellowstone actually sits inside a giant caldera, which has been rising precipitously over the last decade. Unlike your run-of-the-mill volcanoes, “supervolcanoes” generally go much longer without erupting; however, when they do, they explode with ten thousand times the force of a volcano such a Mt. St. Helens. Over the past several years, geologists monitoring Yellowstone have noticed several signs that the caldera is pushing upward, the result of a buildup of pressurized magma close to the surface of the caldera. The caldera has pushed upward as much as 5 inches since 2003, water has begun boiling along some trails, and bison have died due to the release of toxic gas from the earth’s crust. Should Yellowstone’s supervolcano let loose, any life within 200 miles would be immediately incinerated in the explosion, with a dust cloud of white hot embers becoming extremely dangerous to any life within 600 miles of the caldera. Far more dangerous, however, would be the enormous volume of ash thrown into the atmosphere, which would almost certainly circle the globe and block out the sun, dropping the Earth’s temperature by several degrees, changing life on Earth forever.
9. Global Warming
By now, we’ve all heard the possible effects of global warming: the melting of the polar ice caps will lead to a rise in sea levels, flooding continental coastlines and either pushing the temperatures higher or plunging the Earth into yet another ice age. While it’s doubtful that most life on earth could survive an ice age such as the kind that wiped out the mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, it is perhaps the specter of a much warmer earth that is the more frightening of the two scenarios. Higher global temperatures almost certainly portend drought conditions in many of the areas of the world that the global economy relies on for food. Rising temperatures in the seas could wipe out marine life and a prolonged global drought could end plant life as we know it.
8. Cosmic Dust
Some astronomers believe that our solar system has a date with a black cloud of cosmic dust, at least 1,000 times denser than the space we are used to traveling through. While this interstellar fog won’t blot out the sun completely, it could be thick enough to significantly reduce the sun’s influence on our solar system. The dust and gas could begin eroding away the oxygen in our atmosphere, and the sun will no longer be able to protect Earth and the other planets from the electrons and ions that are constantly flying around in space. Eventually, cosmic rays will begin penetrating our atmosphere, tearing apart the molecular structure of our planet.
7. Nuclear Holocaust
During the height of the Cold War, it was commonly said that the United States and the Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons to blow up the Earth several hundred times over. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many nuclear weapons have disappeared and are wholly unaccounted for. Most concerning in this situation is the possibility that some of these weapons, many of which are small enough to carry in a suitcase, will fall into the hands of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups that thrive on fanatical religion, leading to a global “suicide mission.” The fact that many religious fundamentalists believe that they will be rewarded in the afterlife for destroying evil here on Earth is not very comforting.
6. Mega Tsunami
Having witnessed the devastation that a tsunami can inflict on a region following the Christmas Day tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004, the possibility of a so-called “Mega Tsunami” is very troubling indeed. Imagine a wall of water, thousands of feet high, traveling across the ocean at supersonic speed, headed directly for the eastern coast of the United States. Unfortunately, scientists believe that it’s not a question of “if” such a Mega Tsunami will occur, but “when.” Approximately 500 billion tons of rock currently are hanging onto the side of an island known as La Palama, in the Canary Islands, waiting to slide into the Atlantic Ocean. Such an event would cause a Mega Tsunami that would most likely destroy major coastal cities in England, France, and Spain, as well as New York, Boston, and Miami.
5. Death of the Universe
If the Big Bang theory is correct, our universe “banged” into being out of a single, infinitely dense “singularity.” While this theory of the creation of the universe is now widely accepted, we are still left with the question of what banged? Why did it bang? Did something cause it to bang? Unfortunately, to date, we still haven’t even begun to answer these questions. Conversely, if the universe spontaneously sprang into being in a single instant, is it then possible that the universe could cease to exist in the same way? It is possible that whatever caused the universe to bang into life could cause it to spontaneously bang out of life? Scientists don’t know, but the burning question posed by this dilemma is one of the main reasons we need to better understand the origins of our universe.
4. The Death of the Sun
All good things must come to an end, and that includes the beautiful ball of light in the sky that we know as our son. Astronomers believe that our sun was born approximately 4.5 billion years ago and that it is one-third of the way through its life cycle. In another 1.1 billion years, the sun will increase its brightness by about 10 %, having an extreme greenhouse effect on Earth and likely wiping out life as we know it. In another 5.5 billion years, the sun will double in brightness as it uses up all of the hydrogen fuel contained in its core. Eight billion years from now, the sun will be approximately 166 times its current size, turning into a red giant. Though life on Earth will be long gone, the sun will fill the entire sky, swallowing Mercury, Venus, and possibly Earth before it begins its descent into a white dwarf.
3. Death By Black Hole
For most of history, astronomers didn’t think we had much to fear from black holes here on Earth. After all, they appeared to be rare phenomena that existed in deep space and had little to do with the future of our planet. Then came the discovery of a so-called “Super Massive” black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and, even more frightening, the discovery of “wandering” or “renegade” black holes, right in our own galactic backyard. Acting as a giant cosmic vacuum cleaner so powerful that not even light can escape its grasp, these wandering black holes drift around the universe, gobbling up everything in their wake. If a black hole was get anywhere near Earth, one of two scenarios would take place, and neither of them would be much fun for us. The gravitational pull of the black hole would cause Earth to careen out of its orbit, either spinning out of the solar system and off into deep space, or in the opposite direction, directly towards the sun.
2. Gamma Ray Burst
Gamma ray bursts are the most destructive forces in the universe. Thought to be caused by the collapse of a rapidly-rotating, high-mass star into a black hole, gamma ray bursts seem to emanate randomly from unknown locations in deep space. Though gamma ray bursts last only a few seconds to a few minutes, they are often followed by longer-lived “after glows” of energy that are equally as destructive. Were Earth to be hit by a gamma ray burst, we would never see it coming. A quick gamma ray burst would hit the Earth as a ray of energy 1,000,000 times more intense than our sun, roasting our atmosphere and essentially microwaving the entire planet.
Death by meteor has, of late, become the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters and alarmist fantatics screaming about the end of days. At least, it was, until scientists recently discovered that two meteors, approximately the six of two 10-story buildings, passed far too close to Earth for comfort in the last several months. Additionally, an asteroid scientists have named “Apophis” is scheduled to for a near miss of Earth in the year 2019. Depending on how close Apophis comes in 2029 will determine whether or not it impacts Earth when it returns from the other direction in 2036. In 2029, Apophis will pass (hopefully) pass within a mere 10,000 miles of earth, closer to us than some of our satellites. If the Earth were to be impacted by an asteroid the size of Apophis, life an Earth would most likely have to deal with the double-whammy of both an impact that would send fires racing across the planet and millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere, as well as a mega-tsunami that could wipe out all life within hundreds of miles of continental coastlines.