Last year’s apocalyptic craze foresaw the end of the world because a bunch of South American Indians stopped carving on their calendar. In 2009 Roland Emmerich brought the prophecy to the silver screen with the movie 2012, where a struggling writer somehow managed to survive Armageddon, which bodes well…
If humanity would collectively take off its tinfoil hat for a moment and pay attention to what scientists say, we could all let out a sigh of relief. The good news is that our planet’s life expectancy stretches for another 1.75 billion years; the bad news is that we have most likely managed to make the planet inhabitable for humans long before that.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences have analyzed a whole bunch of planets outside our galaxy to try and figure out how much time ours have before human life on it will be impossible.
The planets chosen for the study shared certain key factors such as a surface temperature less than 50C and liquid surface water. These also happen to be the main ingredients for life to begin in the first place.
“Within around 1.75 billion years conditions for human life will become impossible as the sun grows in size, temperatures soar and the world’s oceans evaporate,” said Andrew Rushby, who led the study. “Of course, conditions for humans and other complex life will become impossible sooner – and this is being accelerated by anthropogenic climate change.”
There are other aspects, which could lead to our demise that were not included in the study. We could all bite the bullet on account of a massive asteroid, or we could decide that we’ve had enough of diplomacy and it’s time to let our nukes do the talking.
Rushby said that even if humans did manage to survive another 1.75 billion years, life would not be extinguished at the flick of a switch. As the sun gets hotter it will probably take around a million years for seas to vaporize: “The optimist in me hopes we’ll still be around to see this.”
Considering that humans have only been around for roughly 200,000 years and life on the planet started somewhere between 4.5 to 3.5 billion years ago, whatever we evolve into by the time the world ends, will be as far from us today as we are from amoebas, if we are to believe Dr Francis Colins, head of the Human Genome Project.
Even though scientists say we have more time ahead of us than behind us, one can’t help but feeling that early Christmas shopping this year might not be a bad idea.