The Kewl Doodz 'n' Chyx

Saving you from dull moments. Some links may be NSFW!

10 Ways the World Could End

Posted by Martin Poulter on 19 October 2007

I’m grateful to the TED videos for continuing to raise the general intellectual tone of the Internet. This talk by Stephen Petranek, a former editor of Discover magazine, surveys some threats to the continued existence of the human race. It needs taking with a large grain of salt: there’s some of the unrestricted optimism about future technology that I’ve complained about in another context.

Some of the facts he comes out with  make a counterpart to the Fifty Facts that Should Change the World. Namely:

  1. According to the WHO, one in five of the world’s population are depressed. Not just unhappy, but clinically depressed.
  2. Astronomers are discovering two or three new planets per month. At present we can only search for very large planets (much larger than the Earth) in the tiny local neighbourhood of our Solar System.
  3. The present rate of extinctions exceeds previous mass extinctions by a factor of ten thousand.
  4. Particle accelerator experiments done with current technology have the prospect of creating tiny black holes (which rapidly evaporate). (The talk was given in 2002, so did this happen?)
  5. Genes from bio-engineered corn have been found in wild corn in Mexico, where genetic engineering is illegal.
  6. It takes about one hundred years for the Earth’s magnetic field to reverse. This happens every few hundred thousand years.
  7. It would take about 300 years to terraform Mars to make it more suitable for human habitation.
  8. Only one antibiotic works against Staphylococcus. If that virus mutates, we’ve no defense against it.
  9. There are estimated to be ten million black holes in our galaxy.
  10. When half-mile wide asteroid collides with the Earth (as many have in the course of Earth’s existence), the debris thrown into the atmosphere creates a nuclear winter.
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