Apocalyptic asteroids, nuclear holocaust, volcanoes or tidal waves swallowing us whole, tectonic plates collapsing in on themselves – Mother Earth faces a range of potentially disastrous demises, each more terrifying than the last.
10. Flipping magnetic poles: Every few hundred thousand years Earth’s magnetic field dwindles almost to nothing for perhaps a century, then gradually reappears with the north and south poles flipped. Given the last such reversal was 780,000 years ago, the end may indeed be nigh.
9. Gamma-ray burst: Supernovas are some of the universe’s strongest explosions and discharge high-frequency electromagnetic radiation, known as gamma-ray bursts. But stress less, for Earth to be obliterated the supernova would have to be relatively close and aimed just right.
8. Black hole: Floating around the Milky Way are thousands if not millions of rogue black holes and any one of these collapsed stellar corpses could swallow everything in its path without warning.
7. Biotech disaster: Biotechnology unlocks the potential to customise our offspring, clone people and basically toy with evolution.
Ethical issues aside, imagine a race of superhumans so advanced they eliminate the rest of us? We’ve all seen an X-Men blockbuster or at least a zombie flick, right?
6. Climate change: No matter if you think climate change is man-made or a natural phenomenon, there’s no denying the planet is getting hotter. Rising temperatures, droughts, extreme weather, diminishing air quality and dwindling natural resources are just the tip of the melting iceberg.
5. Supervolcano: About 200 million years ago, a series of massive volcanic eruptions wiped out half of life on Earth. Lava flows and sulphuric acid would obviously be bad for humankind, but the debris emitted by a supervolcano eruption could block the sun and bring on a big freeze.
4. Asteroid: Could an asteroid really end all life on Earth? Just ask the dinosaurs, which were wiped out by a cataclysmic event 66 million years ago.
On the off-chance NASA has failed to spot an interplanetary rock on a collision course with Earth, and we don’t blast the rock before it blasts the planet, it really would be curtains for civilisation.
3. Artificial intelligence: Unless you’re a complete luddite, computers and technology significantly impact your daily life. But what happens when artificial intelligence surpasses that of humans?
When robots become self-aware and decide to turn against their inventors? Imagine Terminator meets The Matrix with plenty of Apple product placement.
2. Pandemic or biological warfare: Pandemics such as the plague and swine flu spread through humans like wildfire. The 1918 flu outbreak killed 3 to 5 per cent of the world’s population.
Biological warfare also poses a very real and dangerous threat to humanity. Weaponised viruses such as anthrax or Ebola could cause fatalities in 90 per cent of the population.
1. Nuclear holocaust: The Cold War may be over but the threat of nuclear annihilation remains. Need we mention Iran or North Korea? More countries than ever have nuclear weapons at their disposal. Humanity could be potentially wiped out at the touch of a button. If somehow we survived, there would still be the fallout, contaminated food, water and air quality and, worse yet, nuclear winter.