In the Guardian, reporter Kate Ravilious asked 10 scientists to name the biggest danger to human life on Earth. Some of them say we’ll go out with a bang, others say Earth will have a slow lingering end. Still other scientists say we’ll solve our problems by evolving into a new species.
According to British astronomer royal Martin Rees, human beings have only have a 50-50 chance of making it through the 21st century. He thinks our biggest threats, such as global warming, are caused by humans. U.K. researcher Nick Brooks also thinks that climate change is our greatest danger.
Viennese researcher Reinhard Stindl says our species has a pre-destined extinction date, just like the cells in our bodies. He compares this to telomeres, which are the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. As our cells divide, they never copy their telomeres completely, so they become shorter and shorter as we age. Eventually, this leads to old age diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and strokes.
But Stindl thinks that telomeres also get shorter as a species ages, meaning that every species is destined to eventually become extinct.
Health researcher Maria Zambon predicts that a viral pandemic, like bird flu, will be the end of us. In some places, human life has almost been done in by HIV, and SARS illustrated how quickly a dangerous virus can spread through modern transportation.
Terrorism expert Paul Wilkinson thinks a terrorist attack will end the human race, from a nuclear bomb or biological weapon, while defense expert Air Marshal Lord Garden thinks nuclear war will do us in.
NASA’s Donald Yeomans thinks we’ll go the way of the dinosaurs?that our world will end with a meteorite strike. Bill McGuire thinks a super volcano will explode and cause nuclear winter, which will block the sun and end our growing season. This is what the meteor strike probably did to the dinosaurs. Physicist Nir Shaviv thinks it will be cosmic rays. Robotics expert Hans Moravec thinks we’ll build robots so efficient that they’ll take over.
Last but not least, physicist Richard Wilson thinks the Earth will be swallowed up by a black hole.
Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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