How the World Ends
World Ends. News at 11.
This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with hordes of mutant radioactive zombies rampaging across the land, while Great Cthulhu rises from the deep and meteors crash into central North America, setting off the supervolcano under Yellowstone, and causing a massive polar shift and the collapse of Earth's geomagnetic field, followed by a massive nuclear assault (for no apparent reason), the depletion of the ozone layer, and a virulent outbreak of leopard flu.
There are, in fact, quite a lot of ways the world might end. While the above scenario is unlikely, it is equally possible that any number of the following events could indeed occur on December 21st, 2012.
Meteor or Comet Impact Event
Scientists tell us that Earth will inevitably be hit by a comet or meteor similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs -- we just don't known when or where. The asteroid that wipe out the dinosaurs was around 6 miles wide -- a similar-sized asteroid hitting the Earth today would have dire consequences for human civilization. Imagine what would happen if we were hit by a 10, 20, or 50-mile wide asteroid? Well, scientist guys, maybe such an asteroid will hit the Earth on December 21st, 2012! Keep your telescopes trained on the sky; the Big One's a-coming.
Geomagnetic Pole Reversal
A geomagnetic pole reversal occurs when Earth's magnetic poles suddenly switch places for no apparent reason. Thus, north becomes south and south becomes north. If you're a bird or a whale this might be confusing for a while, but life goes on. However, during the switch-over the magnetic field will weaken. In fact, it might weaken so much that enough solar radiation gets through to cause mutation (perhaps creating zombies!). But, worst of all, it could knockout all our satellites and electrical systems across the world. If that happens, the global economy could collapse, riots and uprising might ensue, and somehow all that might lead to World War Three.
Geological Crustal Displacement
A geological crustal displacement is truly cataclysmic. This occurs when the earth's outer crust somehow, and for no apparent reason, slips over the molten mantle like a loose peel of an orange. The north pole and south pole end up facing roughly east-to-west, and this of course causes massive tectonic upheavals and volcanic eruptions, as well as the rapid melting of the ice caps and global flooding. It sounds like the plot of an apocalyptic disaster movie... oh wait.
Odin Leads the Gods of Asgard to Ragnarok
Ragnarok, also known as Gotterdammerung, will begin when the god Skoll devours the sun and plunges the world into darkness. The Midgard Serpent, Jormungand, will rise from the depths and bring waves crashing down across the land, while the Giants set sail for battle with Hymir as their lord. Loki will lead the warriors of hell from the underworld, followed by the Fire Giant Surt wielding his mighty blazing sword. Against these legions of darkness, Heimdall, the guardian of Bifrost, will sound the great horn Gjallar, calling Odin, the Gods of Asgard, and the Heroes of Valhalla to the final battle. And so it will be, at the End of Days.
Also, bear in mind that the Norse Gods really know how to party, so don't be surprised if Thor drops by your Doomsday celebration to grab a cold one on his way to lay the hammer on Jormungand (and even if he doesn't, be sure to set a 6-pack aside in his honor).
A massive fleet of alien space ships drops out of hyperspace in geosynchronous orbit above the Earth. Without warning, they flood our atmosphere with massive quantities of neutrons and gamma ray radiation, killing all life on the planet in minutes. No matter what Jeff Goldblum comes up with, there's nothing we can do to stop such an attack. Any alien species capable of faster-than-light travel will be so much more advanced than we are that we would seem like little more than cockroaches to them. Cherish that thought as your atoms disintegrate.
Perhaps you've heard: Yellowstone National Park is actually a HUGE supervolcano. Scientist tell us that it erupts like clockwork every 600,000 years, and it is now 40,000 years overdue. When Yellowstone explodes, Mount St. Helens will look like a firecracker in comparison. Needless to say, North America will be pretty much wiped out (at least some say) and ash will rain down across the rest of the planet. That will probably cause other disasters, and so it might somehow lead to the end of the world. Or something.
The LHC Generates a Black Hole
Those darn scientists are up to it again! I swear, they must want to kill us all. FACT: The recently activated Large Hadron Collider, located on the border between Switzerland and France, is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. FACT: It was designed to smash atoms together to test various predictions of high-energy physics and theories of supersymmetry, as well as to probe the existence of the Higgs boson particle. WILD CONJECTURE: Something could go terribly wrong and all that atom smashing might create a microscopic black hole. Now, the scientists assure us that in the very unlikely event that a microscopic black hole is generated, it will evaporate immediately. On the other hand, we all know that black holes suck in matter and energy, so it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if that microscopic black hole starts gobbling up other particles, it will get awfully big pretty quick. First the LHC will be sucked in, then Switzerland and France, and after that all of Europe. At that point the black hole will fall to the center of the Earth, and there it will proceed to suck in the entire planet, inside out. Talk about a sucky way to go...
Maybe it was a toxic waste spill. Maybe it was an anti-aging serum gone horribly wrong. Maybe it was some bizarre, mutant virus released from a top-secret laboratory. Maybe it was an unholy incantation uttered by a dark priest from the pages of the dread Necronomicon. Or maybe it was all the fluoride in the water. Who knows. How it starts is not important, but the results are always the same... Hordes of flesh-eating zombies clawing their way from the grave to shuffle mindlessly across the Earth driven by the pure, instinctual impulse to feed upon the living. Yes, when it comes to apocalypses, you can't go wrong with zombies! Get attacked by one and you're either going to be eaten alive or infected such that you become a zombie yourself (don't ask why -- we'll just spit a load of pseudo-science babble at you). Eventually, the zombies will either eat or infect everyone on the planet, but by then civilization will have collapsed utterly with only a scattering of well-armed enclaves to fend off the never-ending tide of undead gore until the bitter end. Keep those chainsaws and shotguns handy! You might just need them.
Planetary Orbit Disruption
The universe is vast and mysterious, and there's no telling when a rogue planet, red dwarf, or neutron star will suddenly just sweep through our solar system and knock Earth out of its 4.5 billion-year stable orbit around the Sun. If that should happen, Earth will either spiral straight into the Sun or be hurled out of the solar system. Either way, the result is pretty grim. Spiraling toward the Sun, all life on Earth will perish as the temperature gradually increases to 100s of degrees, the seas will boil, the atmosphere will burn away, and finally the planet itself will vaporize as it plunges into the Sun. Hurled away from the Sun, the Earth will freeze and end up looking a lot like a very large version of Pluto (the
planet Trans-Neptunian object, not the cartoon dog).
The Second Coming of Jesus
His first name is actually Yeshua, not Jesus, and his last name is not literally "Christ" -- but don't tell his billion-plus followers that as they very well might lynch you. Ever since he was executed Roman-style over 1,970 years ago, his imminent return has said to be at hand. According to the Book of Revelations (a.k.a., the Apocalypse of John), Yeshua will return triumphantly to overthrow the Anti-Christ ruler of the world and defeat Satan in the final battle of Good and Evil -- Armageddon. Of course, the story is all very allegorical and despite the endless scholarly debate about what it means, no one can really agree whether or not John was actually speaking about future events or simply writing about events taking place in his own time in a very oblique sort of way.
The Second Coming of Quetzalcoatl
Known as Kukulcan to the Mayans and Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs, he is the Great Feathered Serpent God who taught human kind the arts of language, agriculture, and mathematics. Quetzalcoatl was both the creator and the destroyer of the world. In the course of his endless struggle with Tezcatlipoca, god of the night, the two deities would create and subsequently destroy the world. The current age will again be destroyed when Quetzalcoatl returns from his exile across the sea, and a new world will be created in its place. Being that December 21st, 2012 is supposedly a Mayan prophesy of Doomsday, its a fair bet that old Quetz is going obliterate the planet and reconstitute its component elements into a new Earth. And did you know that one of Quetzalcoatl's incarnations is known as Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli? If you're patting yourself on the back for pronouncing Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca correctly, go ahead and give Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli a try.
The Second Coming of Elvis
Descending down from the Heavens in his pink Cadillac, the King shall return for his one final act. He'll be garbed in all white with lightning down his sides, his hair swept back and a six string by his side; from Vegas to Memphis he'll ride all night long, playing his guitar 'till the new world's dawn. He'll lead all his loyal people to the pearly gates of Graceland, smiting all who deny he's the King of Rock-and-Roll. He'll wage a battle of the bands against his long eternal foe: the Devil with his fiddle and all the fiends below. Though the world will burn in that final confrontation, the King will deliver us to our rock-and-roll salvation. Thank you... Thank you very much.
Through much of the Cold War, the threat of a total global nuclear war seemed imminent. With two great superpowers, each spouting their own diametrically opposed ideology and each capable of destroying the other at the push of a button, it seemed the most likely end-of-the-world scenario was M.A.D. - Mutually Assured Destruction. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the threat of nuclear (that's nu-cle-ar) annihilation waned considerably. However, between the US, China, and Russia there are still some 20,000 active nuclear warheads today, 5,000 of which remain on a hair-trigger alert. In fact, even France has some 300 operational nuclear weapons, although no one is quite sure why. The slightest error or misinterpretation could be enough to cause one nation to launch an attack on another. This would, of course, result in a full-scale retaliation and subsequent counter-retaliation, which as we all know will lead to all all-out nuclear exchange, the destruction of our civilization and 90% of mankind, followed by a horrific nuclear winter, and, eventually, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. If that's not reason enough for concern, I don't know what is.
Cthulhu Rises from Deep R'lyeh
For untold eons, the Great Old Ones have lain dreaming in Deep R'lyeh, imprisoned by the Elder Gods until the time when the stars are right and the Earth is ready for their return. Those days will be known by all, for mankind will have become like unto the Old Ones in their ways--throwing aside laws and morality, shouting, killing, and reveling in wickedness. In their dreams the Great Old Ones will teach mankind new ways to shout and kill and revel, and all the Earth will be inflamed with a holocaust of ecstasy and madness. Decay will spread across the cities of men, Great Cthulhu will rise up from R'lyah, and the world will perish in a frenzy of fright, terror, and mind-numbing insanity. For, as it is written in the unholy Necronomicon, "That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons even death may die!" Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Ia! Ia, Cthulhu fhtagn!
The Handkerchief of the Great Green Arkleseizure
According to the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the 50-armed Jatravartid people of Viltvodle VI believe the universe was not so much created in a big bang as it was sneezed out the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure. According to their most holy writ, the Jatravartids believe that one day the universe will be utterly wiped away in the time of the Coming of the Great White Handkerchief. But don't panic. While this theory has been by-and-large dismissed by scientists and theologians alike, some philosophers have successfully argued that a belief in the Coming of the Great White Handkerchief is no more or less valid than a belief in any other kind of Doomsday scenario.
Fire and Brimstone from God Almighty
All ye heathen non-believers, know that Great God Almighty will pour down his vengeance upon you for all your evil, wicked, sinful ways! Just as he smote down Sodom and Gomorrah, so shall he smite all the sinful, murdering, adulterous sinners of the world! If you break even one of his Commandments, he will send his angels to cast you down into the fiery pit to be devoured by Satan and his demons. Know that the Final Judgment is now upon us, and fire and brimstone will rain from Heaven to purge the Lord God's Creation of all the foul, writhing, decadent masses who languish in ignorance of his Infinite Love. Yes, that's right -- God loves you, and if you don't like it he will damn you to an eternity of suffering and torment in the burning lake of fire in the deepest bowels of Hell! Hallelujah!
Terminal Global Pandemic
Let's not mince words -- global pandemics are no laughing matter. Every year millions of people die from HIV/AIDs, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza, and many others. But let's face it, we've all become a bit jaded when it comes to the news media announcing yet another horrific global pandemic that is going to wipe us all out, only to be let down when absolutely nothing happens. It is true -- SARS, swine flu, and avian flu kill hundreds of people a year... but that's a far cry from anything of an apocalyptic nature. Nevertheless, there remains the threat that one day an outbreak of a highly contagious, high-mortality virus could sweep across the world. Carried by air travelers, such a virulent pandemic could spread to every major city in a matter of weeks, and from there to thousands of cities across the globe. The Black Death killed one third of Europe's population, and a virus with a similar mortality rate today would grind our civilization to a halt and cause world leaders to declare martial law to mitigate the spread of the disease and stabilize the breakdown of society. So when the media next announces an outbreak of "leopard flu", stockpile your MREs, get your surgical masks ready, and cringe with mortal fear at the next person who sneezes near you -- he could be infected with leopard flu!
Total Existence Failure
This strange phenomenon could occur at any time (or never) and for any number of reasons. A Total Existence Failure could occur as a localized event, causing the Earth to simply "poof" out of existence. After all, sub-atomic particles pop in and out of existence all the time in the so-called quantum foam that constitutes the very fabric of our universe. While highly improbable, all the atoms that make up the Earth could simultaneously pop out of existence (although the probability of this occurring over the life-time of the universe is some 1010000 to 1, against). Having said that, such a phenomenon might explain the existence failure of small items such as socks, rings, and car keys. On a larger scale, a Total Existence Failure might cause the entire universe to pop out of existence. The only good part about this doomsday scenario is that we would never know it happened, as we would all instantaneously cease to exist.
Space-Time Manifold Collision
More concerning than the spontaneous non-existence of all the atoms of the Earth is the possibility that our universe might collide with another neighboring universe. Because there are an unlimited number of ways the laws of physics could unfold, many physicists and cosmologists are working on the premise that our universe is just one of many universes existing within a vast and infinite multi-verse. Like our universe, these universes are born and die over billions, even trillions of years (although outside of their own space-time, the passage of time may be utterly meaningless). In fact, some cosmologists are studying the possibility that our universe was created from the collision of two other universes. If that is so, then it means that as our universe continues to expand, we might just collide with another neighboring universe. That would have dire consequences, as both universes would be destroyed at the speed of light, or perhaps much faster -- after all, the collapse of space-time is not subject to the light-speed barrier. All we would see is an immense wall of energy, a flash of light, and then... well... we'd no longer exist. But don't feel bad. As the very quarks that constitute every atom in your body are ripped into pure energy at several hundred trillion degrees, you can die knowing that from such cataclysmic destruction one or more new universes will be born. So you see, in the end, there's always hope!