Check out this article by Wired.com going over the major doomsday theories. Some of the major topics reviewed are: Chemical weapons, Germ Warfare, Chain Reactions, Nanobots, Black holes, Magnetic Pole Shifts, Super Volcanoes, climate change, and Killer Asterioids.
Taken from Wired.com
Omigod, Earth’s core is about to explode, destroying the planet and everything on it! That is, unless a gigantic asteroid strikes first. Or an advanced physics experiment goes haywire, negating space-time in a runaway chain reaction. Or the sun’s distant companion star, Nemesis, sends an untimely barrage of comets our way. Or …
Not long ago, such cosmic thrills, chills, and spills were confined to comic books, sci-fi movies, and the Book of Revelation. Lately, though, they’ve seeped into a broader arena, filling not only late-night talk radio, where such topics don’t seem particularly out of place, but also earnest TV documentaries, slick mass-market magazines, newspapers, and a growing number of purportedly nonfiction books. Everywhere you turn, pundits are predicting biblical-scale disaster. In many scenarios, mankind is the culprit, unleashing atmospheric carbon dioxide, genetically engineered organisms, or runaway nanobots to exact a bitter revenge for scientific meddling. But even if human deployment of technology proves benign, Mother Nature will assert her primacy through virulent pathogens, killer asteroids, marauding comets, exploding supernovas, and other such happenstances of mass destruction.
Fringe thinking? Hardly. Sober PhDs are behind these thoughts. Citing the hazard of genetically engineered viruses, eminent astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has said, “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years.” Martin Rees, the knighted British astronomer, agrees; he gives us a 50-50 chance. Serious thinkers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague, and Bill Joy, who wrote Wired‘s own 2000 article “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” warn of techno-calamity. Stephen Petranek, editor in chief of the science monthly Discover, crisscrosses the world lecturing on “15 Major Risks to the World and Life as We Know It.” University of Maryland arms-control scholar John Steinbruner is lobbying organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Medical Association to establish an international review board with the power to ban research into the Pandora’s box of biomedicine.
If we’re talking about doomsday – the end of human civilization – many scenarios simply don’t measure up. A single nuclear bomb ignited by terrorists, for example, would be awful beyond words, but life would go on. People and machines might converge in ways that you and I would find ghastly, but from the standpoint of the future, they would probably represent an adaptation. Environmental collapse might make parts of the globe unpleasant, but considering that the biosphere has survived ice ages, it wouldn’t be the final curtain. Depression, which has become 10 times more prevalent in Western nations in the postwar era, might grow so widespread that vast numbers of people would refuse to get out of bed, a possibility that Petranek suggested in a doomsday talk at the Technology Entertainment Design conference in 2002. But Marcel Proust, as miserable as he was, wrote Remembrance of Things Past while lying in bed.
Of course, some worries are truly worrisome. Nuclear war might extinguish humanity, or at least bring an end to industrial civilization. The fact that tensions among the US, Russia, and China are low right now is no guarantee they’ll remain so. Beyond the superpowers, India and Pakistan have demonstrated nuclear capability; North Korea either has or soon will have it; Japan may go nuclear if North Korea does; Iran and other countries could join the club before long. Radiation-spewing bombs raining from the sky would, no doubt, be cataclysmic. If you’re in the mood to keep yourself up at night, nuclear war remains a good subject to ponder. But reversal of the planet’s magnetic field?
At a time of global unease, worst-case scenarios have a certain appeal, not unlike reality TV. And it’s only natural to focus on danger; if nature hadn’t programmed human beings to be wary, the species might not have gotten this far. But a little perspective is in order. Let’s review the various doomsday theories, from least threatening to most. If the end is inevitable, at least there won’t be any surprises.
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Posted by: D.Dig