TAM 8 interview: best way the world will end?

By Phil Plait | July 17, 2010 7:40 am

While I was at The Amaz!ng Meeting 8, attendee Scott Carnegie (from the Winnipeg Skeptics) grabbed a moment with me to ask me which of the ways the world might end would look coolest from the ground. Here’s what I said:

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be able to actually see a comet in the sky, and know that in some amount of time, months say, it will 100% for sure and for real hit the Earth. What would happen? Riots? Panic? Or acceptance? Probably disbelief until the last minute, and then panic.

Yikes. Good thing there’s nothing out there so far that can hit us. But that day may yet come… and I hope by then we have a space program in place that can take care of it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: DeathfromtheSkies!, JREF
MORE ABOUT: TAM 8

Comments (45)

  1. Grizzly

    Late 50′s Science Ficton: The Big Eye. Scientists discover a planet (Nancy Lieder where are you?) that is on a course to hit Terra Firma. Riots, mayhem, dogs and cats living together, earthquakes, the gamut. Then peace, mutual understanding as the big moment comes.

    SPOILER ALERT

    Only it doesn’t. Planet gets close (it has a feature that looks conveniently like an eye looking at the Earth). A scientist has fudged the numbers and it wasn’t going to hit. Every other scientist that looked at the figures was bamboozled thinking that they had gotten their numbers wrong and the first guy was so prestigious they let their “mistakes” go. Nope, no Global Warming cover-up, just Golden-Age suspension of disbelief.

  2. Daffy

    That’s gotta be a new record…a global warming denier hijack in the the very first post.

  3. Tom K

    “Yikes. Good thing there’s nothing KNOWN out there so far that can hit us. But that day WILL come… and I hope by then we have a space program in place that can take care of it.”

    ftfy

  4. Fritz

    Not related, but is this a bolide? Interesting video, regardless of what it is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnszlJC8iGs&feature=topvideos

  5. Daffy

    If it ever happens, I predict two things:

    1) We will NOT have a space program in place to deal with it.

    2) The same people who are arguing against a space program now, will be the same ones demanding to know why we don’t have one when when disaster hits.

  6. “Good thing there’s nothing out there so far that can hit us. But that day may yet come.”

    What do you mean, “MAY?” The day WILL come, Phil; it’s just a matter of WHEN. You know that as well as anyone.

    Carl Sagan and others have frequently pointed out that our planet is a target in a vast cosmic shooting gallery. True, we’ve done an admirable job of cataloging Near-Earth Objects, and none of those that WE KNOW OF seem to present a foreseeable threat. And yes, Jupiter seems to do a bang-up job of clearing away a lot of the debris that might otherwise threaten us. But somewhere out there is an object with our name on it, something large enough to take our civilization down a few notches if not worse. It may not arrive for another hundred or thousand years, but it will eventually get here. When it does, I sure hope there is enough spacefaring infrastructure to deflect it. This is why the space program is so vitally important. Without it, we resign ourselves to an evolutionary dead-end.

  7. >>What would happen? Riots? Panic? Or acceptance?<<

    Religious douchebaggery on an epic scale that humanity hasn't seen since the Dark Ages. That's what would happen.

  8. Order of events on doomed Earth:

    Denial.
    Conspiracy theories.
    Simpering TV docu-dramas.
    Growing acceptance.
    Assignment of blame (e.g. the Great Satan, immodest dress, praying with hands above head instead of clasped together in front, evil libruls, et al).
    Mass consumption.
    Settling of old scores.
    More mass consumption.
    More denial.
    Mass consumption.
    Extreme violence.
    And then…

  9. Oh, yes. Religious douchbaggery. Forgot that one, ES. Although it would probably run in parallel with Assignment of blame.

  10. Messier Tidy Upper

    A killer comet would look awesome and give us lots of time for contemplation, well okay, at least a few weeks right? So, yes, I agree with the Bad Astronomer there. Although a deadly supernova would also be a magnificent heavenly spectacle. If we’re going to go then we might as well take a whole star out with us right? ;-)

    @ 4 Daffy : So true. Your two-part prediction there is, I think, spot on.

  11. Taiga

    The Canadian film ‘Last Night’ depicted the last 12 hours of doom. The world was going to end at exactly midnight – the cause appeared to be solar activity – and everyone had known it for months. There was rioting, looting and partying, but also just people spending time with loved ones and trying to go about their daily lives. Characters ending conversations with friends and family with the words “see you later”, knowing they’ll all be dead within an hour.

  12. Dean

    I’ve always wished ‘they’ would do a feature film based on Lucifer’s Hammer. Forget all this happy crap with comet impacts being stopped at the last moment.

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Dean : I’ll second that suggestion. :-)

    It may not be necessarily totally apocalyptic and a contentious issue among the public but Global Warming does have some spectacular – and, when you get the implications, scary – footage associated with it. See :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MozcU7woNNQ&feature=related

    A scene from Earth : A Biography’ shown at the 6 minute 10 to 6 minutes 40 secs mark on one of those “Crock of the Week” videos. (Specifically ‘Polar Ice Update’, 5th July 2009.)

    This is methane being released from melting permafrost and greatly escalating / contributing to global warming. A couple of scientists walk across a Siberian lakebed and dig a hole in the ice at a methane hotspot releasing the gas which they then ignite.

    From the videoclip :

    “..Dr Walters guides geologist Ian Stewart on a Siberian lake where the methane feedback is ongoing. The surrounding permafrost shows the effects of greenhouse warming slumping and collapsing into the lake bottom where bacteria begin to convert the organic matter to methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times as powerful as Co2. The gas is bubbling up in such quantities that it actually bursts into flame when released. The process is happening at millions of sites across the Arctic.”

    Earlier in that clip another scientist notes :

    “.. we estimate that the amount of methane that can come out of lakes is ten times the amount of methane that’s right now in the atmosphere.”

    We get a shot of at least one lake of thawing permafrost where methane is bubbling up visibly through the water.

    This was also shown in fictional form in a recent (earlier this year I think it was?) Aussie ABC TV eco-thriller Burn Up this time in an Alaskan setting and was the final proof of Global Warming that changed the main characters views in that fictional presentation of the peak oil / AGW issues.

    This is also the footage I noted here (my comment #55) :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/07/12/no-methane-from-the-bp-oil-leak-wont-kill-us-all/#comment-282839

    on the recent “No, methane from the BP oil leak won’t kill us all” thread here.

  14. Gary Ansorge

    I wonder about the global effects of a comet strike smack dab in the center of antarctica. Instantaneous rise of sea levels, global tsunamis, centuries of torrential rain in the middle of the Rub Al Khali(in Saudi Arabia, which hasn’t seen a drop of rain in the last century).

    People and critters might survive, only to wish they hadn’t.

    Gary 7

  15. Pete Jackson

    In parallel with what has happened to climate researchers, I figure that if astronomers predicted that a great comet should strike the Earth in 100 years, their work would be debunked by pseudo-scientists who would have ‘proof’ that it would not happen, astronomers’ computers and web sites would be hacked and selected portions of their private emails and texts would be displayed on newspapers, web sites, and TV for all to ridicule.

    (remember me? – colleague from COBE)

  16. Greg in Austin

    Great video, Phil.

    You should write a book!

    8)

  17. Jearley

    #4 Fritz:
    That is a rocket launch. I’ve seen this sort of thing myself, years ago when I lived In California, and the USAF would launch from Vandenberg AFB. Very cool sight, and also pretty mysterious if you don’t know what it is. At 36 seconds into the clip, you can see a staging or engine shut down, I think. The comments on YouTube are indicative of the general lack of knowledge and stupidity of our culture…

  18. Kassul

    Given Phil’s question of how people would react upon hearing that the world is gonna get hit by a comet(well, asteroid in this case), I feel compelled to post a link to a webcomic that deals very well with this IMO:

    http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/minus37.html

    *hugs Minus warmly(she’s the girl at the bottom of the strip, and basically a walking miracle)

    Dunno which group I’d be in, though I certainly know which ones I WANT to be in.

  19. Jess Tauber

    You take a heap of folded and aluminized graphene and take it to the comet, tether it, unfold it in a position and manner such that it focuses sunlight on one concentrated spot on the body of the comet. The jet of material spewing from that one spot now gives you the capacity to move the comet, if you can aim it properly. A big enough sheet should give you quite a show.

  20. Messier Tidy Upper

    @16. Greg in Austin Says:

    Great video, Phil. You should write a book!

    I’ll second that – I’d love to see *another* book from the BA! I’ve already suggested he do a “Best ofthe BA blog” one that immortalises in print a number of the best posts from here. :-)

    Thinking of spectacular disasters, I think supervolcanoes or a nuclear holocaust have that going for them – as would the LHC turning the Earth into a Black hole! ;-)

    PS. Yes I *do* know that’s not going to happen. The LHC is perfectly safe. I’m just saying from a hypothetical point of view – maybe with a “flashforward” to the next super-supercollider model? ;-)

    PPS. Hypothetically and hyper-improbabally, how about a time machine disaster accident where a temporal field envelops the whole Earth and reverses our planet’s course through time – we un-eveolve backwards through time past the ice ages, the dinosaurs and trilobites and the huuge spans of time when Earth had nothing but bacteria all the way to the point where the planet un-forms! ;-)

    (Of course, then the time machine wouldn’t be build so we’d have a grandfather paradox scenario too but anyhow… It would be spectacular as seen from ground or LEO – if we were aware of it! ;-) )

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    Almost forgot – alien invasion, depending on how they destroy the planet / us,would have to be high on the “the ways the world might end would look coolest from the ground” list. ;-)

    Plus “a Gamma Ray Burst would be instantaneous” BA? Wouldn’t it only be instant death for those on the side of the planet facing the GRB? For those on the other non-GRB side of the globe wouldn’t the End of the World be a rather slow and drawn out affair as the after-effects of the GRB took their toll? Don’t I recall reading something like this in a certain book about Death from the Skies featuring a GRB caused by Eta Carinae?

  22. Messier Tidy Upper

    ^ Ah yes I do – here it is :

    “Across the Earth’s southern hemisphere, people were having a normal day, shopping, working, playing, walking, hunting. When the beam reached Earth that all changed instantly. The sky looked perfectly normal for one second then literally in the next it suddenly lit up, like a switch had been flipped. An intensely bright spot flashed in the sky, so bright that anyone looking at it instinctively looked away, eyes watering from the onslaught. The new star in the sky was so fantastically bright that it could outshine the full Moon, but didn’t last long. It started to fade after half a minute, and was bearable to the eye after a few minutes. People stood in the streets, in the deserts, on the Antartic plains, on ships at sea in the South Pacific and Indian oceans, and boggled at the incredibly bright but rapidly dimming new star in the sky.”

    - Page 104, Chapter 4, ‘Death from the Skies’ Phil Plait, Viking, 2008.

    Then the nasty stuff starts happening!

    First *hours* later a flood of sub-atomic particles causing deaths by radiation exposure. Then *within weeks* we get the destruction of the ozone layer, then a global layer of smog formed by the reactions with the Gamma ray particles in our atmosphere induces a ice age and acid rain.

    The last line of that GRB chapter intro. makes it sound pretty fast :

    “The mass extinction the star triggered would be the worst the Earth had ever seen and when it was finally over, there were no humans left to wonder at how a single star trillions of miles away could destroy all of history in less than a minute.” P. 105, ibid.

    But it still sounds like a GRB would be pretty speccy after all! ;-)

    So did you forget what you’d written BA or were you testing to see if we’ve actually read your book? ;-)

  23. You so need your own TV show, you’re very articulate and enthusiastic. You should follow in the footsteps of Carl Sagan and do a documentary about the Universe (or perhaps just the Milky Way galaxy), with your particular spin on it. As it were.

  24. baric

    Hmm… a nearby supernova might be better…

    We’d get a cool show with the Aurora Borealis and, if the supernova was not strong enough to kill us all off right away (as opposed to a gradual extinction due to a destroyed environment), then we’d get to see a huge planetary nebula in the sky.

    Ya, ya.. no nearby stars will go SN, I know.

    Hey Phil.. I saw you at TAM8 as well! You won’t remember me.. I was the long-haired freak who posed for a pic :D

  25. 4. Fritz Says: “Not related, but is this a bolide? Interesting video, regardless of what it is.”

    Fritz – That’s a rocket launch at high altitude. Since the video is from China I presume it’s either a Chinese or Russian military test or satellite launch. It’s heading almost due north which is not the way you launch commercial or manned flights.

    The launch is right after sunset, so what you’re seeing is the particulates in the exhaust being lit up by the sun (which is below the horizon for the observer, but sill up at the altitude of the rocket). The altitude is high enough (say, over 50 miles) that the atmospheric pressure is so low that the particles travel in straight lines (well, technically ballistic) rather than “billowing” like they do around the pad at ignition. That exhaust plume is some tens of miles across and incredibly thin. The only reason you can see it at all is due to the sunlight on it, but not on the observer giving a mostly black sky behind.

    The coolest part is that you can see staging. The cloud suddenly stops being generated when the lower stage engines cut off, which gives you some idea of the speed of the particles. The cloud picks up again, but smaller, as the upper stage comes up to thrust.

    This is the coolest and clearest video of these events I’ve ever seen, and to think it was done by an amateur who just happened to be staring the right direction at the right time!

    - Jack

  26. Nullius in Verba

    “In parallel with what has happened to climate researchers, I figure that if astronomers predicted that a great comet should strike the Earth in 100 years, their work would be debunked by pseudo-scientists who would have ‘proof’ that it would not happen, astronomers’ computers and web sites would be hacked and selected portions of their private emails and texts would be displayed on newspapers, web sites, and TV for all to ridicule.”

    A: “The world is going to end! A mighty comet will strike the Earth in 2100! The oceans will rise and turn to wormwood!”
    B: “Gosh! That sounds serious! Show me your calculations, please, I gotta see this!”
    A: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”
    B: “Huh? What? Give me the data!”
    A: “It’s proprietary!” (aside to colleague, in stage whisper: “Just sent loads of telescope data to S. Make sure he documents everything better this time! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The evil doubters have been after the raw telescope data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone!”)
    B: “Hey! What’s this here on your ftp site? There’s a directory called “CENSORED” with a load of different results in it. It says the comet is going to miss! What is this?!
    A: “Nothing! Nothing! Wrong data! It’s all your fault, you downloaded the wrong data.”
    B: “And here. There’s something screwy with this principal components calculation here… PCA doesn’t work with missing data, but you got good results, even with data full of gaps. What did you do?”
    A: “You’re doing it wrong! Ha! It’s laughable how you doubters can’t even do a simple calculation.”
    B: “Hang on, this is new. What’s in this HARRY_READ_ME.txt file? The one somebody leaked? Oh… My… God!!!”
    A: “Religious!! He’s religious! Don’t listen to him!”
    B: “This is written by one of your own programmers! It says your code and data is a mess. It says you have no configuration control. It says you can’t replicate your own results. It says some of the data files have been lost. It says you fiddled with the processing until you got the results you expected, that when anomalous values in the data caused the processing to fall over, you just edited the raw data to remove them and moved on. The programmer is “seriously worried” that “our flagship gridded data product” is calculated wrong, rendering parts of the results “totally meaningless”.
    A: “We’ll have an enquiry. Yes… Yes… A totally independent enquiry. One headed by the world’s biggest “comet umbrella” manufacturer, by a mate who used to work here for several years, but doesn’t any more, by my University, all completely independent… Exonerated! Totally exonerated! The science has been verified!”
    B: “But according to the enquiry reports themselves, and this email, none of the enquiries looked at the science.”
    A: “None of the enquiries found any factual errors in the science. There might have been a few tweaks needed, but the main results still stand.”
    B: “But none of them looked! Oh, for heavens sake…”
    A: “Doom! Dooooom!! The end is nigh!”
    B: “We want our money back!”
    A: “Doom! …”

    And so it goes, for the next 90 years.

    And eventually, the world ran out of exclamation marks, and silence fell.

    Just like the last time.

  27. David C

    OMG!!! PHIL!!! SOMEONE LEAKED THE DATA CLAIR TRANSLATED FROM THE COMPUTER WE FOUND IN THAT 65 MILLION YEAR OLD ROCK!!!

  28. Nullius in Verba

    #28,

    Thanks, David, for that very intelligent contribution. I am pleased to see that the standard of debate here is as high as ever.

    Incidentally, to get back to the original topic of the discussion, I thought that the best sort of planetary doom would be a small planetoid captured in Earth orbit below the Roche limit. The sight of tidal stresses destroying it, creating a vast ring system, and then falling to Earth in a continuous rain of fireballs would be spectacular.

  29. Nullius in Verba

    On re-reading that, I might have been a bit harsh. In case it wasn’t clear, by “last time” I was thinking of the last time we ran out of exclamation marks.

    But there have been asteroid-to-collide-with-Earth scares before. XF11 in 1997, for example. Plus a few where we have had a few days warning of a possible collision (AL00667). And there have been significant collisions far more recently than the Triassic (Mahuika in 1443). It’s not that unlikely a scenario, and we sort of know from past experiences roughly what the reaction would be. It would be unlikely that we’d have enough data to be sure, and unless there was specific action we could take, like issuing tsunami warnings, most of us would shrug and carry on. In public, I’m sure there would be arguments about whether the data was right, but astronomers share their data with amateurs, so the scenario wouldn’t happen as I suggested.

    If we were told about it 100 years in advance, as proposed, I think we could do something relatively easily. Probably, we’d do nothing at all for 80 years while we developed the technology, and then we’d go and move it.

  30. Chip

    Like the loose chain-link fences along mountain highways that stretch to slow down and catch rolling boulders, unfurl a gigantic highly stretchable series of grids, like space going nets, which cannot stop a comet but instead impact and stretch as the comet plows into them. The brief moments of force exerted by the giant stretching net alters the course of the comet by suddenly exerting mass against half the entire object. This is a crazy solution for rapidly altering course of a recently discovered massive object on a collision course with Earth.

    Or at least the script for another Bruce Willis movie.

  31. Damon

    yeah and comparing astronomy to a proven climate change phenomena was kind of dumb too Nullius, nice selective reasoning there

  32. Michael Simmons

    I hate to be negative… but I think its more probably a smaller object would strike the earth causing 100 of millions to die and scare us into setup a planetary defence system. Hopefully we will see it coming for many months and be helpless to do anything adding to the post event frustration/anger.

    After that I’d expect trillions to be spent ensuring it never happens again.

    The chances of this is much higher than the next big impact being extinction level.

  33. Ray

    I’m not overly concerned with rogue comets or asteroids hitting the Earth as long as Bruce Willis is around and we have space shuttles.

    What? Oh.

  34. RobT

    Well, there are a few groups that are looking into how we can protect earth from an asteroid collision. There was an episode of Naked Science that discussed this and one group they profiled was the B612 Foundation

    http://www.b612foundation.org

    One of those involved in B612 is Rusty Schweickart, of Apollo 9 fame. Hopefully, they, and other groups, can get the funding they need before it’s too late to develop proper technologies and strategies.

  35. mike burkhart

    Hears how and when the world ends: 100000000 AD(or CE if you perfer) sun burns all its hydergen that it has been burning for billons of years and starts burning heleum ,cools down turning red, expands engulfs Mercury, Venus , Earths surface heats up forests burn all water boils humans (if there are any) know there is only one thing that will save humanity :get off the planet find a new one, the sun expands and engulfs the Earth and moon humanitys home and place of orgin is gone forever. the suns expansion stops after engulfing Mars the sun has gone to the next phase in itslife :red giant millons of years after it will become a white dwarf and then burn itself out .

  36. Nullius in Verba

    #32,

    I wasn’t the one who initiated the comparison (that was a quote at the top of my #27) – and I wasn’t comparing phenomena, but the way people have reacted to them.

    The story of AL00667 is instructive in this regard. The asteroid was observed by a professional astronomer who put the data up on the web without realising that it passed through the Earth. An amateur saw the data, realised its significance, and notified various people. The professionals took note, and gathered more data as required to refine the prediction.

    The professionals respect the amateurs. They share data with them. They use them as a valuable additional resource – extra eyes on the sky, extra brains looking out for things of interest or significance. It’s quite certain that if the astronomers spotted an asteroid headed for Earth in 100 years that they wanted us to do something about, all the data and calculations would be on the internet, and they’d make every practical effort to make sure that anyone who wanted to see for themselves, could.

    And scientists living in such an ethos naturally assume that other scientists work the same way, and that if the professionals in another area express confidence in a particular conclusion, that they’ll have checked it out properly and we can take it on trust – as much as you ever can in science. And so if you ask them, they’ll say they support the consensus in that field, and not worry that they haven’t looked closely at the evidence or details themselves. (I certainly did, for quite a while.)

    Astrophysicists may like to compare it to the situation when the scientific consensus was that black holes were impossible, and some young upstart called Chandrasekhar was going round trying to sell the idea that they had to exist. A physicist working in another area, on hearing that Einstein himself had written a paper proving that they were impossible, would not have even bothered to examine the young Indian’s equations. And the fact that the general public were quite keen on the idea explained neatly why people kept bringing it up – mere populism to garner more attention and funding.

    Even worse, a few physicists had examined his equations and agreed privately that Chandrasekhar was right, but would not give any public support because they did not wish to antagonise Eddington.

    Scientists are human.

    So in some alternative history, the idea that astronomers might have declared cometary doom in error, such as I suggest, is not really ridiculous. “100%”? We get hit by big comets every hundred million years or so, but scientists make mistakes every day – which of these, a priori, is the more likely hypothesis?

    Anyway, I thought it an interestingly alternative way of looking at it, and the Climategate stuff just an entertaining setting for it. Pete Jackson got there first, though.

  37. Bramblyspam

    I think the coolest-looking end may well be the same as the coolest end overall: earthlings dismantle the planet in order to get building materials for space colonies.

    Assuming we don’t die off first, I’m pretty sure we’ll develop the required technology long before the sun-red-giant scenario becomes a concern.

  38. Michael Simmons

    Coolest looking end? as per “Earthstorm” large asteroid/comet hits the moon fragmenting it.
    Even cooler if it formed a ring of debris that rained down on to earth.

  39. Messier Tidy Upper

    36. mike burkhart Says: [July 19th, 2010 at 12:30 pm]

    Hears how and when the world ends: 100000000 AD(or CE if you prefer) sun burns all its hydrogen that it has been burning for billons of years and starts burning helium, cools down turning red, expands engulfs Mercury, Venus, Earths surface heats up forests burn, all water boils humans (if there are any) know there is only one thing that will save humanity : get off the planet find a new one, the sun expands and engulfs the Earth and moon humanitys home and place of orgin is gone forever. the suns expansion stops after engulfing Mars, the sun has gone to the next phase in its life : red giant millons of years after it will become a white dwarf and then burn itself out.

    Very close but not quite. ;-)

    I think the prevailing thinking now is that the Sun will render Earth uninhabitable as it warms towards red gianthood and becomes a yellow sub-dwarf star in about a billion years time. Eventually, over thenext few bilion years our Sun evolves further into first an Orange Giant like Arcturus then a Red giant like Mira before its outer layers stream away into space leaving its core as a newly minted white dwarf “stellar corpse” at the heart of a beautiful but evanascent planetary nebula.

    As our Sun balloons outwards it will consume Mercury and Venus for sure. However, our Earth is a boarderline case and may or may not survive depending on exactly how the Sun loses mass as it expands and whether or not tidal braking drags Earth into the red hot vacuum that Sun’s outer layers will become. Mars will almost certainly escape destruction but be left along with other surviving worlds a frozen very dimly lit, sterile globe orbiting the white dwarf cinder that used to be our Sun.

    The BA goes into detail about this in his Death from the Skies book too – it gets a full chapter (7) from pages 195 to 224. ;-)

  40. Messier Tidy Upper

    For more on this there’s a series of space art images showing different stages in this process here :

    http://business.fortunecity.com/soros/98/zukunft.html

    There’s a small astronomical error in the 7 billion year panel – our Sun lacks enough mass to ever be a supergiant star but will be a “mere” red giant at that stage instead. ;-)

    A supergiant is considerably bigger and more massive and *may* end up going supernovae – which our Sun won’t do. (NB. Not all supergiants and no giants *ever* explode as supernovae.) A supergiant also burns elements beyond just Helium and Carbon at its core while our Sun’s core is only massive enough to burn He & C before shutting down.

    There’s also more here via space.com :

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/death_of_earth_000224.html
    &

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/planetearth/earth_move_010207.html

    Incl. a timeline down the page on that second one as well as a suggested course of action for really “saving the planet” – literally! ;-)

    Hope that’s helpful & interesting for y’all. :-)

  41. fatkid

    We treat the planet like a toilet- tech has only accelerated it’s swirl. Gates 10 billion, gmo desert wheat, deep water drills.. Unless we sustain ourselves for the next hundred(s of?) years, all this rock talk is just mental masturbation. Bring on the comet. I just hope the next rock brings more viable carbon than ours did.

  42. stompsfrogs

    @ Nullius

    If you don’t want to be misunderstood, don’t bring up hot-button issues :/

    “An asteroid could give the earth an abortion and everybody would get gay married!!!1″ woulda been just as tactful as what you did up there.

  43. Pi-needles

    Coolest End of the World?

    Nuclear winter of course! ;-)

    Although I sure don’t want to actually see that happen. :-(

    Er .. Return to Snowball Earth conditions anyone?

  44. Nullius in Verba

    #41,

    I don’t mind being misunderstood. It give me the opportunity to explain it again more clearly!

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