We’re all going to die! But, hopefully, not at the same time.
At least, that is, if we survive the latest flurry of doomsday scenarios.
Humanity may have dodged the black hole that some feared would swallow the Earth, or at least a good-size chunk of Switzerland, when the Large Hadron Collider began its search this year for “God particles” left over from the first moments of the universe. But the universe remains fraught with insomnia-generating perils.
Especially as we count down to 2012, which, as some doomsayers and Hollywood screenwriters believe, was prophesized on the Mayan calendar as the end of everything.
There are the usual suspects: killer asteroids, plagues, mega-volcanoes, nuclear war and climate change. And some lesser-known looming apocalypses, like a collision with the planet Nibiru or an upside-down flip in the Earth’s axis.
Luckily, some proactive paranoids are seeking solutions.
Scientists say a large asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and a small one flattened a forest in Siberia in 1908. But almost any asteroid hit could spell doom for modern civilization.
That is why Russell Schweickart, a former astronaut writing in The Times, urged the United States government to fund $250 million to $300 million for a NASA ASA ASA “detection-and-deflection program.” Potential asteroid threats could be tracked with telescopes and radar, buying enough time, Mr. Schweickart suggested, for a modest spacecraft to nudge them off their deadly trajectories.(The Hollywood solution starred Bruce Willis, the space shuttle and a nuclear warhead or two.)
If an asteroid did hit the Earth, those who survived the initial impact could face a deadly disruption in the food supply as vast clouds of ash blocked out the sun. Of course, a mass die-off of plants could also result from nuclear war, climate change or the mega-volcanoes that lurk beneath Montana and the A zores.
But prevention and forethought may prevail. In icy Longyearbyen, Norway, scientists have created the Global Seed Vault. Thousands of varieties of seeds are stored under the permafrost. The Times called it “a sort of backup hard drive, in case natural disasters or human errors erase the seeds from the outside world.”
As for nuclear war, “Countdown to Zero,” a documentary released this year, encourages us to have nightmares about atomic annihilation. As The Times summed up its message, “the rise of global terrorism, the expanding nuclear club, the increased availability of fissile material on the black market: all point to a higher likelihood of nuclear attack than ever before.”
The film offers a plan for nuclear weapons that is either naïve or utopian: just get rid of them. All of them. Lucy Walker, the director, stressed to The Times that the weapons have no place in a volatile, post-cold war world. “No matter what you used to think,” she said, “the only stable solution today is zero.”
Other doomsday threats may be deflected by rational thought. The DiscoveryNews Web site listed its Top Ten Reasons Why the Earth Won’t End in 2012. Among the pronouncements: the moon’s gravity would keep the Earth’s axis from flip-flopping, just as it always has, and the planet Nibiru would not swing by Earth.
Why? Because, according to the site, “There isn’t such a planet any more than the planet Naboo from the Star Wars trilogy is real.” KEVIN DELANEY