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Doomsday: How Will the World End? When Will the World End?

Updated on April 3, 2012

Doomsday and end of the world - scenarios

As soon as man became intelligent enough to realize his own mortality, he broadened his scope to wonder about Doomsday and how the world will end. This isn’t an article about the end of the world in 2012. It’s not about the end of the world or a doomsday according to some religious nuts, either. Not that I have a problem with God. I believe in God, and I also believe in science. I don’t see the two beliefs as diametrically opposed. This article is meant to give readers something to think about: when will the world end, and how will the world end? Will the world as we know it just go on forever, or will it come to an end someday? Will there be some major apocalypse, and if so, what might this apocalypse be?

Nuclear war could mean the end of the world.
Nuclear war could mean the end of the world.


World War II was often touted as “the war to end all wars.” Of course, we know now that the term was a misnomer. Wars are still occurring on our planet, and mankind is getting better and more efficient with killing. We’ve “progressed” from stone clubs to nuclear warheads to biological and chemical warfare. If these modern marvels were to get out of hand, it could create a doomsday scenario.

I grew up in the sixties, when a nuclear attack from Russia was believed to be a real threat. We even had classes at school that instructed us on survival in case we were bombed. How many nuclear warheads are there now on Earth? As of June 2011, the number was believed to be around 20,500, worldwide, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Of course, that’s just an estimate. Most nations don’t reveal their nuclear secrets.

A single modern U.S. nuclear bomb is about eight times as destructive as the one dropped on Hiroshima. Consider that the U.S has more than 8,000 nuclear warheads, and Russia has even more. Mankind has enough nuclear power to bring about the end of the world.

 A large asteroid will hurl near Earth in the next decade.
A large asteroid will hurl near Earth in the next decade.

Will an asteroid cause the end of the world?

An asteroid’s collision with Earth is inevitable. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. It’s most likely what destroyed the dinosaurs over sixty million years ago. According to Perry A. Gerakines in Scientific American, a large asteroid collides with our planet about once every hundred million years. If that average holds true, and the last big asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago, does that mean we’re due for another asteroid catastrophe soon? Of course, the key word here is “soon.”

If a mile-wide asteroid were to impact Earth at 30,000 mph, every life form on our planet would most likely be obliterated, causing an end of the world scenario. Such an asteroid would effectively be the same as a one million megaton bomb. Think this is just science fiction? Think again. An asteroid this size, 1997XF11, is projected to come dangerously close to our blue marble in 2028, which could mean an apocalypse..

Smaller asteroids could be devastating, too. Of course, they would wipe out any life for possibly hundreds of miles from the impact site, and they would also cause huge tidal waves and thick dust clouds that would effectively prevent the sun’s rays from reaching the earth. Depending how thick the dust clouds were, how vast they were, and how long they persisted, it’s possible that they could cause the end of the world.

Will humans survive as long as the sun?
Will humans survive as long as the sun?

Will the end of the world be caused by the sun's demise?

Without our sun, there would be no life on Earth, so it would mean the end of the world. And the Sun won’t last forever. According to Donald Brownlee, an astrophysicist, and Peter Ward, a paleontologist, the sun is brighter today than it was eons ago, and it’s getting even brighter. Brownlee explained to ABC News how our atmosphere has managed to make Earth’s temperatures relatively stable, in spite of the fact that the sun’s brightness has increased 30%:

It's amazing, but the Earth's systems have conspired to do this. As the sun has gotten brighter, the composition of the atmosphere has changed."

Brownlee goes on to explain that while global warming is a short-term concern, the bigger problem is going to be too little carbon dioxide:

In the short term, that's a big problem, but in the longer term, hundreds of millions of years, it’s a decline of carbon dioxide that’s really the major problem.”

Why will this be a problem? Because plants must have carbon dioxide in order to live, and when the plants die, animals will starve to death. As the sun brightens, grows, and gets hotter, it will become a red giant. Temperatures on our planet will increase so much that all the water on Earth will evaporate, and that includes seawater.

According to some scientists, including Yale University’s Sabatino Sofia, a solar physicist, our sun will eventually become a red supergiant. When that happens, it will explode, sending about 33% of its mass hurtling through space. The earth would be “swallowed up,” and the sun would die. Of course, we don’t have to worry about the world ending anytime soon because of a dying sun. It could, however, answer the question, “How will the world end?”

A global volcanic winter could cause the end of the world.
A global volcanic winter could cause the end of the world.

Will the apocalypse come about due to volcanic winter?

You’ve heard of nuclear winter, right? Volcanic winter is similar. It would have basically the same effect on Earth that a nuclear winter would have, but it would be created by a supervolcano. And yes, this has already happened. Indonesia’s Toba Volcano erupted some 70,000 years ago, creating a volcanic winter that lasted almost a decade. Many scientists believe that this incident, along with the ten centuries of cooling caused, drastically decreased the human population to around several thousand.

Sulfuric acid from a supervolcano could wipe out huge swaths of forests and other forms of vegetation, along with animal life. The extent of damage would depend on how large and powerful the eruption was. Even after the initial damage to localized areas, however, the resulting volcanic winter would be much more inclusive.

How would a volcanic winter affect our planet? Our atmosphere would be filled with sulfuric acid and volcanic ash, which would work in two ways to diminish the sun’s rays on Earth. The ash would effectively “block out” sunlight, and the drops of sulfuric acid would reflect solar radiation. This one-two punch could cause significant global cooling and result in drastic decreases in plant life. It could mean the end of the world – at least the end of the world as we know it.

A global pandemic could be the end of the world as we know it.
A global pandemic could be the end of the world as we know it.

World ending by man-made pandemic?

If you’ve ever seen or read The Stand, by Stephen King, you get the idea of what a global pandemic could do to the human population. With biological weapons practically in their infancy now, who knows what types of bugs can be created in a laboratory somewhere. If these viruses or bacteria are released, either accidentally or purposely, the results could be devastating. If some infectious agent was created by scientists with the purpose of killing, how could it be stopped?

This is especially true when you consider antibiotic resistance. Every year, bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics. A physician told me recently that this problem is more startling than most people realize.

The idea of the world ending because of a pandemic isn’t far-fetched. If antibiotics are currently having trouble defeating common bacteria like staph, strep, pseudomonas, E. coli, C. difficile, salmonella, and pneumonia, imagine how some superbug created by human intelligence could run rampant. Author King might not have been so far off, after all.

Contagion movie

Move over, Stephen King! A new movie about a global pandemic, Contagion, has just been released in the U.S. Contagion stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Kate Winslet. Directed by Stephen Soderbergh, Contagion is about a deadly virus that wreaks havoc on humanity.

Yes, Contagion is just a movie, but the scary part is that scientists, physicians, and vaccine experts have praised the film for its realism. Watch the video below to see what the famous Dr. Oz says about the Contagion movie.

A tsunami in the distant future might be our doomsday.
A tsunami in the distant future might be our doomsday.

Could a tsunami be the end of the world?

I saw a special on television that really piqued my curiosity about catastrophic tsunamis – especially those that could devastate the United States. Ever heard of La Palma? It’s a volcanic island in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, part of the Canary archipelago. La Palma covers over seven hundred square kilometers and includes the Cumbre Vieja volcano and ridge. The volcano is dormant right now, but it’s growing. As the volcano rises, the land around it becomes steeper and more unstable. There’s already a gap in the island that was caused by a 1949 eruption. So, what does that have to do with the end of the world as we know it?

Many scientists believe that if a large part of La Palma slides into the ocean, resulting in catastrophic tsunamis that could completely destroy much of the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean islands, along with cities on the coasts of Portugal, northern South America, and north Africa. Some models suggest that such a tsunami could be as tall as one-half mile, with subsequent waves reaching 160 feet in height.

How likely is this to happen? Scientists disagree, but new evidence supports the theory that it might take thousands of years. According to Delft University of Technology, a “perfect storm” would be required for a megatsunami, and even such a scenario is probably 10,000 years away. We won’t have to worry about the end of the world in this case for quite a long time.

HOW will the world end?

No one knows how the end of the world will come about – at least no human being has that knowledge. I don’t spend much time worrying about it, although I do find the topic fascinating. It’s hard for many of us to imagine a time on Earth when man wasn’t present, just as it’s difficult for us to picture the end of the world and the end of man’s reign. Maybe there won’t be some huge catastrophe. Maybe we’ll just slowly fade away...

“This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

From “The Hollow Men,” by T.S. Eliot

Dr. Oz on Contagion movie:


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