All Things Must Pass: The 7 Deadly Roads to the End of Days
You didn't really think this Merry-Go-Round would keep spinning forever, did you?
Sooner or later -- we hope later -- the time will come to fold this carnival tent and stand witness to the end of life as we know it.
When is anybody's guess but a lot of people have some very strong opinions about how.
We lay out here seven major theories -- in ascending order of our concern -- of the impending and inevitable apocalypse. Some of the theories presented here, you may think are too frivolous. Some, you may think we're too frivolous about in our treatment of them. But one thing is sure.
When the hammer finally comes down, whether by divine intervention, cosmic chaos or our own stupidity, the debates and disagreements won't matter much.
Let us begin to look at The End...
7. The Rapture
Holy Bible 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
If you're Harold Camping you believe that Earth's ticket has already been punched and all Hell will break loose May 21, 2011. Other prophets are a lot less specific about when but many do feel that we're all on borrowed time.
Given the root meaning of the word rapture there's good reason to believe that, even if it did happen, it might not be such a pleasant experience.
Safety in Numbers?
The Rapture is a -- relatively recent -- biblical supposition, embraced primarily by some -- but by no means most -- Christian Protestants. The vast majority of Earth's Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, Christian, Gnostic, agnostic and atheist residents just haven't bought into it.
Apocalyptic Sweat Index (ASI): Don't sweat it.
6. Gamma Ray Burst
This bad-boy is a no-win scenario.
When a spinning heavy star collapses into the singularity of a black hole, there is a tremendous explosion. The blast might last only a few seconds but the energy released could be more than our sun has put out in its 10 billion year existence.
All observed Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) have been outside of the Milky Way galaxy but should there be one close to home, it would be lights out.
The problem is that upon reaching earth, the GRB radiation would dissociate nitrogen in the atmosphere producing nitric oxide at levels high enough to burn off the planet's ozone layer, leaving us exposed to the ravages of space. Not a pretty way to go.
ASI: GRB's are to some extent directional, limiting the danger. We just have to stay out of the crosshairs. The Sweat Level is low.
5. Meteor Strike
This is what almost got us the last time. And it was brutal.
Somewhere off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and near the town of Chicxulub is what scientists believe was ground zero for the meteor that changed everything.
On the bright side, Darwinians believe that getting rid of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago cleared the way for the rise of mammals like us who would have otherwise been known as T-Rex Chow.
Prognosis: Inevitable but who knows when.
That's actually the problem. Being vaporized might be our first hint that something wasn't quite right. Big brother Jupiter may have taken a bullet for us just a few months ago and our own Moon has caught a lot of the flak that otherwise would have been headed for us. But our luck can't hold out forever.
ASI: Commence mopping your brow. At the very least, we may be in for some close calls.
4. Global Warming
Hot enough for you?
We're prepared to catch major flak on this one. Fully 57% of Americans disagree with us about Weathers of Mass Destruction, down, however, from 77% just a few years ago.
Politicians say the science is in but scientists disagree about the politics of this prediction. Because we're hard pressed to think of any case where politicians were right about anything and weren't acting only in their own selfish interests, we remain skeptical.
Debate or Done-Deal?
We're not here to debate the science, or the politics or that matter, but we acknowledge that there is -- and we believe there should be -- vigorous debate about matters of such grave consequence, in which all points of view can participate. We're disappointed when ad hominem attacks are made on people like John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel, for expressing an inconvenient opinion.
ASI: Keith Olbermann will hate us for saying it but don't sweat it. In fact, if the next item happens (and it eventually will) , pray for Global Warming.
3. Ice Age
Cold enough for you?
What scientists do seem to agree on is that we will at some point experience the next cyclical ice age. Maybe a little global warming wouldn't hurt.
In a ridiculously and dubiously over-simplified nutshell, the Earth wobbles on its axis as it rotates and revolves and every several thousand years or so, the acrtic glaciers shake loose and slide southward. Distance from the sun, sunspot activity and a bunch of other factors come into play but that's the gist of it.
"It could happen in 10 years," says Terrence Joyce, who chairs the Woods Hole Physical Oceanography Department. "Once it does, it can take hundreds of years to reverse."
ASI: Bundle up... Glacier migration is cyclical and as predictable as the four seasons albeit on an epic time scale.
2. Nuclear Holocaust
The Fire Next Time
W.R. Johnston reported in 2005 that there have been 2,389 nuclear detonations since the beginning of the nuclear age. Fortunately, all but the two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were tests.
Life was in some ways simpler during the Cold War.
The balance of nuclear weaponry was once a see-saw with the US on one side and the USSR on the other. The concept of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) kept everything in check. Dropping a nuclear bomb on your Cold War enemy would result in a devastating and deadly counter-attack.
Limited Nuclear Exchanges
But with the fall of the Soviet Union and entrance of new nuclear-tipped nations to the party, everything is up for grabs. Further, there is the disturbing belief that warfare might be waged with so-called tactical nukes without escalation to the launching of their strategic big brothers.
And, the cost of entry may have dropped dramatically if such things as miniature, suitcase-sized nukes actually exist. Suddenly you don't need a multi-billion dollar network of nerve centers and missile silos to be a player.
Perhaps a little better now that the cowboys have left Washington DC but with North Korea having just joined the nuclear party, Iran about to, and India and Pakistan at odds over Kashmir, things are very unpredictable.
ASI: Sweat it. This one could really get out of hand.
The Black Death in the mid-1300s wiped out a quarter of the world's population
That would be the equivalent of 2 billion dead today.
The Hong Kong Flu in 1968-69 killed possibly as many as 1 million people worldwide. And as of this writing, the western hemisphere is under attack from the resurgence of the H1N1 Swine Flu.
Weapons of War
And then, of course, there's the threat of biological warfare (anti-personnel and anti-agricultural) waged by terrorist groups or nation-states.
But viral or bacterial warfare or mutation aren't the only bio-hazards. We damned well might just do it to ourselves by accident. Something much akin to a bio-catastrophe happened 50 years ago and we're still dealing with it. We're talking killer bees.
The history of Killer Bees reads like the plot of a bad B-Movie.
In the mid-1950s, Warwick E. Kerr, a Brazilian biologist, was experimenting with the hybridization of bees to develop a strain better suited for tropical conditions. Let's call Kerr Dr. Frankenstein in this scenario. The experiment didn't go well and produced bees that were highly defensive, to say the least.
One day in 1957, one of the bee-wranglers -- a temporary sub for the regular guy -- put the wrong barrier grate on one of the hives. Let's call this guy Igor. Twenty-six bees escaped, multiplied by the millions and swarmed across South America and into the southern ranges of North America, killing many and injuring thousands of people in the process.
ASI: Sweat this one, big time and there's a lot of different ways it could go down. Of all seven deadly roads to the End of Days, a bio-outbreak may be the most likely
What are your thoughts about the possible roads to oblivion?
Feel free to let us know.