Monday, February 17, 2014

The End of the World?

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” 

~ Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Today on Far Future Horizons we join host Dallas Campbell as he delves into the Horizon archive sto find out how scientists have tried to predict the end of the world, from natural disasters to killer diseases and asteroid impact. 

Are we any closer to knowing how it’s all going to end? And, will science be able to save the human race when the apocalypse eventually arrives?

The first decade of this millennium shows us what little control we have over our own destiny and the fragility of human existence.

The World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York of September 11th, 2001, the Indian Ocean tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011 and associated Fukushima nuclear accident are the doleful reminders that disaster, natural and manmade, can strike without warning and with a colossal human death toll.

The recent Chelyabinsk event of February 15th, 2013 also reminds us that Lucifer’s Hammer can strike without warning from the skies above. A meteorite, travelling at 18 km/s (40,000 miles an hour), exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, with an estimated yield of 440 kilotons of TNT (1.8 petajoules (PJ)), 20 to 30 times more energy than was released from the atomic bombs detonated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

About 1,500 people were injured, two seriously. All of the injuries were due to indirect effects rather than the meteor itself, mainly from broken glass from windows that were blown in when the shock wave arrived, which came minutes after the superbolide's flash.

We were just lucky this time around. Next time our luck may just run out.  If the Chelyabinsk meteorite were a bit larger the whole city of Chelyabinsk would have been devastated with a death toll measured in the hundreds of thousands - A modern day urban Tunguska eventbut, with a massive death toll. For all we know Armageddon may just be around the corner and the seven trumpets of doom may sound shortly.

The End of the World? A Horizon Guide to Armageddon

Interested readers may care to read the article What Will the End of the World Be Like?  by Rachel Monroe that appeared in the Baltimore Fishbowl on December 21, 2012.

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