World ending bummers
10Solar flareI picture some sun worshipping stud out on the back deck with his RayBans, iPod and banana hammock looking for that perfect golden hue to impress the laaaaydays. Then wham! A coronal mass ejection blasts in from the sun and Sonny McStallion is reduced, cartoon-style, to a speedo shaped mound of ash. I’d point and laugh at him, but by that point, the nation’s electronic infrastructure would have been fried and I’d be busy scurrying to hoard food just like the rest of the humans reduced to a cockroach mentality. I give most of humanity one week without communications and the basic comforts provided by electricity before they turn into Escape from New York freak barbarians. The good news: feasting on Adrienne Barbeau. Or Donald Pleasance, depending on your proclivities.
9Nuclear warIt seemed a forgone conclusion for decades until the Soviet Union crumbled and the Cold War was over, rendering movies like “Red Dawn” obsolete. But newer and nastier weapons are always in the works and the technology to make them is not just for superpowers anymore. Most military experts believe it will likely begin as an accident. One country might mistakenly lob a nuke and then others will retaliate. Before a single phone call is made, bombs will be glowing like fireflies in the sky. The good news: You can get a copy of “Red Dawn” for about 39 cents in the Wal-Mart bin.
8Asteroid impactIn the movies, Bruce Willis leads a team of explosive experts who fly into space and blast the menacing rock to smithereens. In reality, he’d be brooding over a glass of Tangeruay and wondering when Demi is going to get fat and ugly so he might feel better about the divorce. Then BAM! A giant rock slamming into the Earth at 15 miles per second, bringing on many varieties of hell. At the epicenter, man and metal would be vaporized, perhaps the luckiest of the victims. Massive tsunamis would cross the globe at supersonic speeds. A huge section of the earth, and parts of it crust, would be blasted into space to rain down on us again. The result: an atmosphere of fire and a planet that won’t see the sun again any time soon through the thick cloud. Fire and then ice, as a brutal winter descends and lasts for decades. Survivors will emerge to a frigid, uncivilized world to scrounge for food. The good news: Almost everybody’s last word will be “what th...”
7Rise of the machinesEven before computers were linked across the globe, there were fears the machines might, through man-inspired evolution, develop a form of high tech attitude. They control our economy, our water supplies, our food distribution, our public safety. Every year, the speed and storage capacity of them doubles. The age of quantum computing is not far off. Computers are rapidly becoming the most powerful population on the planet and we are gleefully blind to the deadly potential because they enhance our lives so and because there's some funny ass stuff on YouTube. But when the machines want us gone, brother, the Geek Squad is not going to save us. There is almost no limit to the ways they can make it happen. The good news: Firefox still does a decent job of blocking pop-up advertising.
6Bio-terrorismMan has been lobbing nasty stuff at his enemies for thousands of years. And every day, he gets a little better at both manufacturing and delivering new poisons or old ones. Couple that with global unrest, advances in bio-technology and growing numbers of extremists and it’s not altogether fantastic to imagine such an end. It might come in the form of something recognizable, like small pox or the flu. It might come as something less familiar, like anthrax or Ebola. It could be delivered in one massive strike or it could start with just one infected person. A sneeze and it spreads to two others. Those two spread it to four, who spread it to eight, and on it goes until the last man is standing… The good news: Stephen King’s epic “The Stand” was made into a decent motion picture you can watch before the sneezing starts.
5PlagueThe Black Plague, typhus, influenza. Microscopic buggers have been hacking at the population as long as there’s been life on the planet. New infections are always rising out of the muck. Germs and viruses grow resistant to medicines and other attempts to combat them. It was only two decades ago we feared AIDS would spell the end for us. Now there are more infectious diseases and not all of them dominate the headlines. Avian flu, SARS, Ebola… Nobody really knows which infection will grow into a superbug and outwit the best medical minds we have. The good news: Chances are a global plague will begin with something man has manufactured in a lab. Dude, you really need to read “The Stand.”
4Alien invasionWe spend so much time wondering if we’re alone and searching for signs that we are not. Hollyweird is fascinated by the notion of visitations from other planets and most of us hope it happens in our lifetimes. Yet if a species from another part of the universe is able to set their suction cups down on our little blue planet, they will no doubt be far more advanced than we are. So advanced, maybe, that they will be like superintelligent aardvarks looking for the meaningless, tasty ants that is us. We think we’re pretty hot with our Bluetooth ear pieces and GPS guided cars. But for all our advances, to a highly evolved society, we probably look like an open bag of Doritos just waiting to be gobbled. The good news: That alien probing you’ve been secretly craving might not be such an unrealistic fantasy after all.
3Super volcanoGo ahead. Take the wife and snot-nosed kids to Yellowstone. Feed the animals and watch the geysers. Take a picture with your honey. Just be aware that below your feet, is a massive crater known as a caldera. It is one of perhaps 40 super volcanoes in the world and if it blows, it will take most of us with it, cheesy vacation shorts and souvenir t-shirts and all. The wrath of the eruption will move quickly across the country, burning the brains right out of the heads of those people unfortunate enough to be in the area. A blanket of ash eight feet deep will cover the ground. More debris will rise into the sky, blocking out the sun around the globe. Crops will die. Regenerating in everlasting winter will be nearly impossible. Those who survive will likely do so only to exist in extreme and miserable conditions. The good news: The caldera beneath Yellowstone is said to erupt ever 600,000 years. It’s been 640,000 since the last eruption. In case you didn’t notice, that’s actually bad news. Enjoy your vacation.
2Gamma raysThe most powerful explosions in all the universe, a ten second burst could wipe out life on our planet almost immediately. The result of a massive star collapse, proximity provides no real comfort — gamma rays from halfway across the galaxy are intense enough to destroy all living things, large and microbial, on earth. Except maybe for cockroaches and editors. Game over, man. The good news: the galaxy in which we reside is not the kind where gamma rays are common. Don’t spend all your dough on hooch and hookers just yet.
1Global warmingHurricanes have doubled in number over the past three decades. Forest fires are far more numerous. Parts of Greenland is melting and the rise of the seas is already underway. Extreme climate changes will result in extreme living conditions. Entire nations may disappear beneath the ocean. Massive storms might wipe out other segments of the population. Drought here, flood there. Food supplies threatened, species dying in numbers, a planet in complete disarray. The good news: “The Day after Tomorrow” was a ridiculous movie that frightened nobody.