Well, the world didn’t end yesterday like it was meant to. Pity, there was a live band at an outdoor venue about 200 yards from my house last evening who were getting quite irritating.
Alas, Niburu didn’t show up. The sun didn’t spew out a giant solar flare. None of the things happened that were allegedly going to.Of course doomsday didn’t happen the last time it was predicted. Or the time before that. Or the 483,000 times before that, including the time a hen in Leeds began laying eggs that predicted armageddon. Still, I’m sure the end has only been re-scheduled. As New Scientist points out, the end is always nigh.
I don’t lose sleep over external phenomena. Earth certainly won’t be blasted out of existence. To destroy Earth you have to overcome the gravitational binding energy – equivalent to accelerating every particle to escape velocity. For Earth, specifically, it’s 2.25 x 10 (exp) 36 joules, about the energy released by 57,000,000,000,000 one-megaton atomic bombs. Some British physicists think the Death Star might cut it. Personally I doubt it. I prefer ‘Doc’ Smith’s method of whamming two planets together, head on, at light-speed. Splut. Planets? What planets. Lots of hard radiation (don’t ask where you get the energy from to accelerate the planets).
Joking aside, we’ve discovered gas giant planets so close to their stars their atmosphere is boiling off, but even that takes millions of years, and the rocky kernel seems able to survive.
Barring close encounter with another stellar system, which will disrupt the orbits of the planets, or some catastrophe (chaos theory suggests Mercury’s orbit might go ape, if the right combination of circumstance occur) Earth’s going to keep orbiting the Sun for the next four billion years, much as now. The day length will change. Eventually we’ll end up tidally locked to the Moon. It’ll be further away (conservation of angular momentum in the system).
At that stage the Sun will have fused all the hydrogen in its core and start fusing helium, puffing into a red giant. It’s going to get warm on Earth. The last life, if it’s survived at all, will be high-temperature bacteria in boiling pools.
But we won’t need to worry about it, humanity will be long gone. As a writer, and a historian, and an anthropologist who started off doing geek hard science, I have spent a lot of time looking at the human condition. And as I look across our historical track record, and at the world today with all the wars and troubles that defy our best efforts to stop them, I think we carry the seeds of our own destruction with us.
What do you think?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012