Science extrapolations provide abundant grist for those inclined to fret about calamitous but low probability events. Creative readers are encouraged to come up with their own, but here are a few foul possibilities:
- Emergence of a microorganism that is highly contagious, 100% fatal, and resistant to every known therapy.
- A solar flare so extravagant that it completely disrupts all electronic communications on which we modern humans are so utterly dependent.
- Initiation of a self-propagating nuclear chain reaction that never stops, thus annihilating the earth.
- Arrival of highly advanced aliens, hostile to earthlings, who kill or enslave everyone on the planet.
The common thread is that while each scenario is catastrophic, each is also extremely unlikely.
In a direct strike to complacency on such matters, scientists (astronomers in this case) have now predicted a highly likely cataclysmic possibility. Detailed analysis of years of data from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that our very own Milky Way galaxy is headed for a direct head-on collision with the Andromeda galaxy. This cosmic smashup is highly certain, but luckily the utter vastness of space greatly reduces the probability that the earth will find itself in the exact same location as another galactic body. A more predictable downside is that the nighttime sky will look completely different, thus reorienting every human tale dependent on constellations.
Not to worry though. The event is 4 billion years in the future and our own sun, having grown much larger and hotter, will likely have already made life on earth totally impossible by the time the collision occurs. Whew!
Tom Tritton is President and CEO of CHF.