It is known that more than 99% of the species of living beings that ever existed on the planet disappeared. And it is unlikely people will live forever. Asking questions about what threatens our existence, we draw in the head apocalyptic images of the films on a giant meteorite or an invasion of alien invaders. But there are also less cinematic, but very real scenarios, which few people think.
The solar storm
The slightest malfunction of our giant thermonuclear reactor – that is, the sun can lead to the fact that our planet could simply become either too cold or too hot to support life and the necessary ingredients for it: namely, a breathable atmosphere and water liquid state. The sun is fairly constant star, compared to most other stars in our galaxy, but the flow of its radiation still varies over a relatively stable 11-year cycle. These changes are only 0.1%, but even this figure is quite negligible seriously affects the Earth’s climate.
Moderate storms occur regularly at 100-150 times per year, but sunny Superstore can destroy a significant part of the energy system in the developed countries. The most powerful in the history of measurements became a storm in 1859, also known as the Carrington Event. CME was so powerful that the Northern Lights were observed throughout the world, even over the Caribbean. Solar storm led to disturbances in the United States telegraph lines. But in the middle of the XIX century there was a serious electrical infrastructure, but if such a cataclysm in our day, he would have brought down the high voltage transformers and would have left without electricity for the whole country, throwing us a hundred years ago.
The sun is not the only star who bears a threat to our planet. Large-scale cosmic energy emissions are observed in distant galaxies, they are called gamma-ray bursts. It is the brightest electromagnetic phenomena occur during the supernova explosion, when a rapidly rotating massive star collapses, becoming either a neutron star or a quark star or a black hole. At the same time within a few seconds the flash is released as much energy as the Sun stands for 10 billion years.
The sources of these emissions are at distances of billions of light-years from Earth, and in our Galaxy gamma-ray burst happens about 1 in a million years, but if it happens close enough to the Earth, it will greatly affect the consequences of all living. According to the 2004 study, the gamma-ray burst at a distance of about 3,262 light-years could destroy up to half of the Earth’s ozone layer, which is our main protection from ultraviolet radiation. In this case, the rays from the explosion in combination with a conventional solar radiation passing through a weakened ozone filter can cause a mass extinction of humanity.
If the gamma-ray burst will occur at a distance of 10 light-years, it will be equivalent to the explosion of the atomic bomb on each hectare of the sky, and on the side of the planet all life be cut off immediately, and in the second half for later account secondary effects.
Serious danger lurks in the depths of our planet. It is known that the so-called super volcano eruption, which in the world there are about 20, can change the world climate and lead to the worst consequences. Good one – in such eruptions occur on average once every 100,000 years.
One of the most dangerous underground forces carries the Yellowstone caldera, which measures about 55 km by 72 km, and takes one third of the famous national park. Scientists have found that the volcano has erupted three times, the last time 640 thousand. Ago. Probability of a new giant eruption is estimated by scientists at 0.00014% per annum.
The eruption of the Yellowstone volcano threatens all humanity. According to scientists, the stratosphere will be thrown a huge cloud that can hang on for a long time, preventing the penetration of sunlight to the Earth. Reducing the power of solar radiation by half would lead to global crop failure, and available food supplies on the ground is hardly enough for a couple months. The annual average temperature of the Earth could be reduced by 12 degrees and back to their positions only after 2-3 years.
Other smaller volcanoes may face dire consequences otherwise. For example, a volcano on the island of La Palma, Canary Islands in the event of an eruption can cause a giant ocean wave, which can flood vast areas of the Caribbean and the coast of the United States. One of the slopes of the volcano is unstable, and if he starts to erupt in the ocean can rock mass collapse of half a trillion tons. It will cause a wave height of 650 meters, which is not difficult to quickly cross the Atlantic.
The planet’s population continues to grow, while more than 50% of people are urban dwellers. Crowding leads to increased mutations, and a high population density – the rapid spread of diseases. Apparently, this trend will only continue, and in the future we should expect new terrible epidemics that can kill entire cities.
In this case, antibiotics are becoming more and more useless than not seriously concerned about the World Health Organization. The growth of antibiotic resistance threatens to tilt the humanity in the era before the invention of penicillin, when the most trifling infection becomes deadly. In the absence of prompt and coordinated action of many stakeholders our world is entering an era when antibiotics lose their effectiveness, and common infections and minor injuries that could heal for decades, can now kill again – says WHO Assistant Director-General Safety Health Dr. Keiji Fukuda.
In general, it is not hard to imagine how the new plague breaks out and the doctors would have no way to stop it. Everyone knows what a Black Death that raged in the middle of the XIV century, which destroyed nearly half the world’s population, the recovery of the population after which it took as much as 150 years. Another terrible pandemic occurred in 1918-1919, when the Spanish flu died from about 50 to 100 million people (or about 5% of the population). With the current level of urbanization and the development of transport infrastructure business will The situation only got worse.
In 2010, a team of specialists epidemiologists built a computer model of Nipah virus, and then followed up with how it will spread and grow. Report on the results of a computer simulation was the basis for the film The Infection. So the fantasy of a deadly virus of unknown origin that is spreading rapidly around the world, it can become a reality.
Depletion of resources
How many more oil left in the bowels of the planet, no one knows exactly. But according to optimistic forecasts that by 2050, has already been pumped out half of the world’s oil reserves (according to released intelligence reports). The first and most urgent problem that we be faced by the time – it’s the end of the era of cheap fossil fuels. Without exaggeration we can say that it supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie modern comfortable life, – writes the writer-fatalist James H. Kunstler.
The oil crisis will have terrible consequences to which most of the population of the world is not ready. And this process will affect not only the industrialized countries. Over time, as the oil will be increasingly scarce and more developed countries will have to look for it where it still remains – in its weaker neighbors. There will be a new phase of operation poor countries rich countries: the Middle East and Africa will be untied all the new armed conflicts.
Oil shortage may trigger an acute shortage and other necessary resources for the life of humanity. Billions of people will starve because of the universal dependence on fossil fuels. In the end, it all can lead to a return to subsistence farming.
Perhaps one day mankind peel oil with a needle and replace gasoline with alcohol, which is produced from corn or sugar cane. However, no known method by which we can produce rare earth metals, and their potential substitutes or does not exist in nature or they have insufficient properties. And without these substances, we would not have any smartphones, no computers, no electric or any other electronics, and accordingly, and progress.
According to the calculations of scientists at Yale University, USA, sources of rare-earth metals are being depleted at a tremendous speed. Currently about 95% of all rare earth metals produces China, and more recently his government has imposed restrictions on the export of certain items, as well as doubled the price on them for non-Chinese producers.
With the development of technology to mankind to fear that these technologies will go out of control and destroy their creators. One of the hypothetical threats is that futurists called gray goo (Grey Goo) – self-replicating molecular nanotechnology, which is not subject to man.
For the first time the possibility of creating such a substance spoke American scientist Kim Eric Drexler, who is known as the father of nanotechnology. The idea of creating nanorobots scientist considered in his book Engines of Creation. In the original idea was assumed that the microscopic machines can be developed in the laboratory, but also can get their properties and random.
In 2010, first demonstrated on the basis of DNA nanorobots, which are able to seek out and destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Tiny capsules provide the necessary dose of medication when a target is detected and purposefully destroy the enemy. In the end it turned out that these nanorobots may exist even a month after the death of the master.
While, of course, nanokiborgi developed exclusively for the benefit of people, but in theory they may both create and destroy. If due to some reason the nanobots will fall into the biosphere and begin to multiply indefinitely, using as a material to create copies of everything, how can get, in fact, they may begin to absorb everything around, including the planet itself. In this hypothetical gray goo will be very difficult to destroy, as it will be only one surviving replicator that it re-start to multiply. If a robot gets into the oceans, it will destroy it impossible.
While the world has 7 countries with nuclear weapons, the possibility of a nuclear war can not be zero, despite the fact that it can lead to the extinction of humanity or the end of modern civilization in the world. The reasons for this are fairly obvious threat: a nuclear explosion is accompanied by a devastating shock wave, erasing all the way around, searing light radiation and ionizing radiation, which causes irreversible changes in the matter. People do not even get significant losses directly from the explosion, with high probability may die from infectious diseases and chemical poisoning. Chances to burn in the fires or be immured in the rubble.
A nuclear explosion causes disturbance of the electromagnetic field, which will damage the electrical and electronic equipment – that is, all communication lines, transformers, semiconductors, resulting in the loss of all modern technologies.
Despite all the risks to be shared civilization, analysts suggest that billions of people are nevertheless able to survive global thermonuclear war. But in the end it may start a nuclear winter. Ubiquitous explosions and fires will make the stratosphere giant amount of smoke and soot. As a result of the sun’s rays are reflected from the particles, and the temperature of the planet throughout fall to the Arctic, and the surviving population will have to adapt to the new harsh conditions.
Ignorance and stupidity
Most undervalued threat to any society is ignorance (unconscious or conscious) in conjunction with the passivity and laziness. Both types of ignorance are fed by the media – the main instruments of politicians and corporations.
It is the cult of ignorance is the reason that in the XXI century in the world there are religious fundamentalists, racists, people who worship power and demonize all those who do not. It is because of widespread ignorance everywhere there are people who deny global warming and exploit others for personal profits.
In the fat years ignorance is growing, and the importance of education and the need to become less apparent. The younger generation, using the benefits of the system, which was built by their ancestors, gradually forget how and why the system was built. In the end, incompetent people gain power with the support of the majority, thus putting the foundations of the system in jeopardy.
Populism and lack of competence are a real threat to humanity. For example, a researcher from the United States suggests that this peak can be interpreted as the beginning of the decline. If only because the former candidate for vice-president the United States Sarah Palin is not familiar with basic scientific theories.
The figure above shows a graph in which the blue marked the development of education, and the red concomitant economic development since the days of ancient Greece to the present day. Although the figure is quite speculative, these pessimistic views are quite common among futurists.
Max Tegmark, Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also believes that human stupidity – the biggest problem of all mankind, and artificial intelligence – its biggest existential threat. People with limited intellectual functioning, ignoring the potential catastrophic consequences, can we assume that artificial intelligence will develop into something that can destroy humanity.