I’ve come to the conclusion that, as a society, we don’t worry about things enough. Because of this insane assumption that is backed up with absolutely nothing, I’ve decided to provide you with a list of things that you didn’t know want to kill you and are so huge that there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
8: The Earth’s Crust Wants to Swat You Like a Bug
There you are, enjoying the wonderful sensation of not being dead. Birds sing, the leaves in trees rustle on a cool spring breeze and you just think to yourself, “Man, do I enjoy being alive and not being dead! I hope this trend of maintaining my current state of being alive continues!”
Suddenly, a cacophonous kaboom shatters your illusion that life is at all safe or, for that matter, permanent. You desperately look around to try and ascertain where the onomatopoeia of doom originated and suddenly, find yourself wondering what could be blocking out the sun. Standing in the unending shadow of your upcoming departure from the mortal plane, you look up just in time to see Roland Emmerich’s wet dream come true as gigantic pieces of the Earth’s crust, with trees, mountains, and what’s left of city blocks still clinging to them, fall out of the sky and crush you and everyone you love so epically that you actually arrive at the Heaven’s gates dead on arrival.
What the heck just happened?
We’ve all heard of the Supervolcano, right? It’s a massive underground ticking time bomb of destruction that could explode and destroy civilization as we know it. Yellowstone National Park is one of them – note, I didn’t say that the supervolcano was IN the park, I said that the entire park IS a supervolcano — a regular volcano’s big brother ready to dish out punishment on everyone who made fun of his little brother’s booger eating habit.
But, however, the supervolcano is small fry on this list. We’re talking gigantic things that want to kill you dead and the supervolcano just doesn’t measure up this time.
Say hello to the Verneshot. Next, you should give it your lunch money and an hour with your mom.
Named after that famous science fiction staple, the two sons of Doctor Emmett L. Brown, the Verneshot is the ultimate killer volcano. It’s a supervolcano if someone gave it a bottle of Everclear, a blindfold, a chainsaw, and instructed it to swing where it hears hysterical crying and screaming.
In a nutshell, this thing is not your friend.
All over the Earth there are these regions called Cratons which is a fancy way of saying that nothing ever happens there. They are the El Paso of the tectonic plates where the crust is thick and there are no earthquakes, no eruptions, no nothing. Billions of years pass on a Craton and it doesn’t rumble once. A craton is simple, stable, and quiet like that weird kid who never says anything in gym class.
However, just like the weird kid who never says anything in gym class, there is something under the surface ready to explode and kill everyone who was ever mean to it.
I hate to pull out the whole “think of this as a cork” analogy, so I won’t even though that’s the most predictable of analogies. Fine… think of a craton as a cork. Underneath that cork, in the churning frothy molten mantle of the Earth, pressure and gas build up for millions and millions of years, but due to the craton’s stubborn stability, that pressure has nowhere to go.
Now we have geologic constipation and, sooner or later, like a case of constipation, something’s got to blow and it will not be a good day.
So, one day without a shudder of a warning, the craton suddenly and most freakingly blows and Earth is witness to a Verneshot. If the Verneshot was just a simple volcano, civilization would probably ooo and ahh for a few days and then go back to watching reality television, but as we mentioned earlier, the Verneshot is not a typical volcano. This is the eruption to end all eruptions and pretty much all life on the planet.
You remember that craton we told you about? Hundreds to thousands of square miles of stable, quiet, and unsuspecting earth? The Verneshot launches it into the sky where it actually leaves the atmosphere before coming back down in a fiery rain of hell and pain like a hundred Mondays at once.
Just in case you aren’t fully aware of what a crap day this would be, allow us to expressly state the sequence of events that would happen if a Verneshot were to happen.
First, millions of people would be killed in the eruption that would release gas and molten rock into the air in a massive pyroclastic flow that would instantly cook everyone in its path and mow down cities like Satan’s leafblower. Everyone not killed in this horrific first few minutes, would probably choke to death on the toxic gasses released into the atmosphere like a full on Jack Black chili cheese burrito fart.
If you were fortunate to survive the first few seconds of this hell on Earth, you would no doubt pray for salvation from above, but you would only be answered by the pieces of the earth’s crust falling down and crushing you, driving more dust into the atmosphere and blotting out the sun leading to mass starvation when the food chain collapses and making the few survivors left on the planet, starving and slowly freezing, utterly green with envy of those who were mercilessly killed off in the first few minutes.
Some scientists belive that Vernshots have happened before. The Deccan Traps in Siberia, the location of an eruption 65 million years ago that lasted 30,000 years and whittled the biosphere down to a few scared mammals, might have been a Vernshot as scientists have discovered strange natural piping that could have been a craton blowing its top.
Again… this thing, if it was a Vernshot, came within a hair of wiping out all life on Earth.
If one of the cratons located on any one of the Earth’s continents were to experience a Vernshot, it’s unlikely that anyone who isn’t killed dead immediately would know what was going on until they looked up and wondered why Oklahoma City was falling on them.
7: Mercury Wants to Murder You
It sucks to be Mercury.
First of all, no one gives a darn about it and why should they? It’s gray, it’s dull and overheated… it’s grandma in the car! Let’s face it, the people of Earth care more about a chunk of ice on the edge of the solar system that really isn’t a planet anymore than we do about Mercury. You didn’t see people rushing to computers to look at pictures of the Mercury surface from the Messenger Probe like they did when Pathfinder took pictures of Mars, do you? No, you don’t.
Because no one gives a solid hunk of poo about a hot barren piece of rock.
Perhaps, though, it’s about time we should start caring because there’s a possibility that, like grandma, this overheated, gray, and boring chunk of ennui might be paying us a visit and it’s really going to ruin our lives.
How is it going to kill us?
You may think of the planets as ancient and eternal, perfectly happy just spinning around the sun and being planets until the end of time or a Death Star pays them a visit… you know, whichever comes first.
The problem is, this isn’t the case. As a matter of fact, computer simulations have shown that, over a period of time, planetary orbits can elongate like a drunken cowboy’s lasso and the planet with the biggest chance of going AWOL is Mercury.
This simulation has shown that Mercury’s orbit could elongate and send the planet into Venus’ path making an impact with our sister planet a real possibility. However, Venus is not only Earth’s sister, she’s Earth’s evil twin sister and, like the jerk she is, Venus could alter the orbit of Mercury even further until that boring ball of rock smashes into us with a force that would obliterate us in an explosion so big and kill us so epically, that our ancient ancestors in the past would actually explode as a result.
The good news is, the probability of this orbital clusterfudge actually happening are only one percent over the next few billion years and, if it did happen, the probability of Mercury actually hitting the Earth are incredibly small so, it’s likely that Mercury doesn’t want us dead right away.
Or, like any good murderer, is simply biding its time and waiting for the right time.
6. The Oceans Want to Suffocate and Starve You
We tend to think of the oceans in two different ways – as a giver of life and food and as humanity’s toilet. If that doesn’t highlight the glaring illogical nature of the human animal, I’m not sure what would. Thankfully, the ocean is a beast of contradictions too for not only was it the stew that gave birth to the impressive thing we know as life, but it could be the thing that takes it away slowly and horribly.
What I am talking about is an anoxic event. While it admittedly sounds like something that an acne pad would do to your face, trust me, this is a pants-crappingly terrifying concept.
How an anoxic event happens is open to speculation – some scientists say it’s caused by massive underwater volcanoes, others say its due to atmospheric changes due to global warming, and others think that the oceans of the world are just gigantic douchebags. Whatever causes the event, all scientists agree on the event’s cumulative jerk move… it destroys almost all of the oxygen in the ocean.
I’m sure that a few of you intelligent enough to read this and say, “Oh, no!” would know what a gigantic complication of a thing that would be. First of all, almost everything in the ocean would die at once. A few fish that hang around the surface where the last of the oxygen would remain would survive, but the entire oceanic food chain would collapse in the geologic blink of an eye and when the ocean food chain disappears, it’s only a matter of time before us dumb stupid land beasts start going hungry as well.
But let’s just say for a minute, that you’re sitting on a ranch in the middle of Kansas thinking, “Screw the oceans. I’m surrounded by cattle! I’ll eat hamburgers as I watch these kelp-eating Prius-driving Democrats die in the mass extinction that Donald Trump was praying for!
Not so fast, my dear little ignorant red-stater.
All of those dead animals rotting in the bottom of the ocean? Some quadrillions of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, corals, and possible Loch Ness monsters? As they decay, they release new gasses into the dead waters, the biggest and baddest and most toxic of which is hydrogen sulfide. Farted into the atmosphere as a final “screw you” from the oceans, this gas would not only poison and kill plants and animals on the surface, but would also destroy the ozone layer, microwaving everything that didn’t die in solar radiation.
This isn’t a fanciful theory, either. While they’re not sure how a global anoxic event might happen, scientists pretty much agree that it has happened more than once, the most recent being about 93 million years ago when much of the life in the ocean died, sank to the bottom, and decayed into glorious petroleum so sweet, you’d topple a regime to get your hands on it.
Could an anoxic event happen again? Of course it can… and of course it will. When, however, is a matter of speculation that will surely keep you from sleeping at night.
6: The Earth Burps, You Die
The possibility of the ocean’s dying fart is terrifying enough, but Earth has some other deadly gasses stored inside its rumbling gullet and could unleash them at any time. The result would be a very bad day indeed.
Trapped under the ice and tundra of the arctic are gasses called clathrates. You’ll find them in the mud and in the oceans held under ice where they are harmless, but silently waiting to unleash their murderous wraths. Clathrates, you see, contain methane which I’m sure all of you know is a dangerous greenhouse gas and responsible for the planet getting hotter and hotter every year. Here’s the scary part: clathrates contain 4,000 times the amount of methane than the atmosphere does and, if they were to get out into the open, would create a runaway atmospheric effect that would raise global temperatures 11 degrees and cause all sorts of environmental catastrophes.
But don’t worry, though… those clathrates? They’re buried under ice and it’s not like the ice at the poles are melting or anything, right?
This phenomenon, known quite hilariously as a “methane burp” is like a steam roller of rampaging diarrhea. The initial release of the clathrates would cause worldwide temperatures to increase which would melt more ice causing more clathrates to be released which would raise worldwide temperatures even more causing more ice to melt causing more clathrates to get into the atmosphere. Once the first “burp” happened, there would be no way to stop the earth-boiling chain reaction.
Scientists, who seem to have nothing better to do than to scare the ever-living hell out of people, point to two instances in the past where the methane burp pretty much pooped in everyone’s soup.
The most recent was about 55 million years ago when methane burps cause a mass extinction and messed up the climate for about 100,000 years. However, if you look a little further back, say 251 million years ago, one of these methane burps nearly obliterated all life on earth.
It’s known as the Permian Extinction where 94 percent of all life on the planet went very much dead. Things were so bad during this time that it took about 50 million years before forests or coral reefs could grow again. In some places, 100 million years went by before life took hold again.
All because of a burp. I guess the old adage, “better out than in” doesn’t apply when you’re an entire planet.
4. The North and South Poles Could Smoosh Us at Any Minute
Ever swat a mosquito in midair? You know, you see it hovering in front of you as it wonders what part of your body would look greatest with a red whelp on it and, with the sound of a miniature thunderclap, you destroy that little guy, only giving him the chance to scream the “Oh F–” part of his final words.
Now, imagine you are the mosquito, the north pole is God’s left hand and the South Pole is your right. Now imagine not even having time to process how dead you are before you are squashed between them like an overripe tomato.
I know what you’re thinking and I am disgusted.
I know that you are also thinking, “Hey, there’s no way that the Earth’s poles could do such a thing!”
You’re partially right… they can’t. Not without a little cosmic help.
Enter the theoretical object known as a cosmic string. It’s one dimensional, extremely dense, and is just cruising stupidly through the universe (Insert Pam Anderson, Justin Beiber, Nichole Ritchie, or Taylor Lautner joke here). As simply as probably as inaccurately as I can put it, they are the ripples in spacetime caused by the Big Bang.
We don’t know where they are, where they are heading, or if they will ever come by our corner of space, but one thing is for certain, if it ever does, we will never know it. Not because we wouldn’t notice the thing, but because we would be dead before we knew what was happening. Everything and everyone. Dead. Just like that. Not even enough time to scream out a final profanity which, as a lover of profanity, I find very depressing.
Cosmic strings, if they do exist, exist in one dimension and, when I say they are dense, I’m not kidding. They have no width, but a string one kilometer long would weigh as much as the earth. Dense and heavy even though, by our three-dimensional standards, they hardly exist.
So, let’s just say that one of these dense, one-dimensional strings are flying through space at the speed of light and our pretty blue and green planet just happens to be in its way and the string passes through the equator.
Keep in mind, I’m using the word “pass through” and not “crash into” because this string thingy would actually pass through the entire planet, passing through its atoms, and come out on the other side and just keep on going as through it just passed through an earth-shaped hunk of air. Good for the Earth, right? No earth-shattering ka-boom?
Ah, but you’re forgetting about the string being dense. In one kilometer, it’s got the mass of the Earth, right? That means that 12,756 times the mass of the entire planet just passed through the Earth. That’s 83,998,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons. That much mass passing through the planet would cause a gravitational pull so strong that the south pole of the planet would crash into the north pole in less than a second reducing the planet to an hourglass-shaped cloud of dust topped off with a question mark obviously wondering what the heck just happened.
The good news is that scientists think that there is only one cosmic string for every Hubble sphere of the universe. In other words, there is one cosmic string in the entire observable universe we can see with the Hubble Space Telescope so the odds of getting smooshed between the pole is very remote.
On the other hand, it might happen as soon as you finish this sentence.
Or this one.
Or this one.
Maybe this one.
Maybe I should stop tempting fate.
3. Space Ninjas Will Make You Feel Fat… Then Dead
If you ever wake up one morning and discover that you suddenly weigh twice as much as you did when you went to bed, don’t blame that piece of cake you gobbled down like the pig you are. Rather, it would probably be a good time to make piece with whatever God you believe in because your existence is about to literally be flushed down the drain by a miniature black hole.
Some scientists believe that these little bastions of death are flying around the cosmos like boogers shot from the nostrils of God herself. The good news is that they are only about the size of ping pong balls. The bad news is, they weigh just as much as the Earth.
So, one of these black hole God boogers happens to get caught in Earth’s gravitational field and crashes into the surface… where it just keeps crashing and crashing until it settles in the very core of the planet. Now, our planet weighs twice as much meaning that everything on the surface suddenly is exposed to twice as much gravity. Birds can’t fly, fat people become immovable blobs, and the game of golf becomes so damn exhausting! On the other hand, pooping becomes much more efficient!
If you saw the reboot of Star Trek, you know what comes next. The miniature black hole sits perfectly happy in the core of the planet gobbling up Earth from the inside out. It’s not known how long a process like this would take – a few minutes or a few months, but our first inkling that doomsday was a’coming would be when the oceans would drain out through the Challenger Deep. After that, it would only be a matter of time before Earth would be sucked down the cosmic drain leaving nothing but a slightly fatter miniature black hole orbiting the sun in its place, its hands behind its back, whistling innocently.
2. Gigantic Dust Clouds Will Freeze You Solid
Dust. It’s everywhere.
That was not only the title of Martha Stewart’s aborted 1999 home and healthy living guide, but it’s also a fact of life. It’s on everything, on everyone, and even inside you. Not only that, but dust is out there in the vast reaches of space. It’s what those pretty comets and nebula are made out of. Heck, dust is the fundamental building block of everything in existence.
It can also freeze everything in your existence.
Dust doesn’t just drift stupidly through space, it likes to form posses and groups and soon, a meaningless speck of space dust is a small cloud of space dust and soon, that small cloud of space dust is a gigantic cloud of space dust. You remember that pretty picture the Hubble took of the “Pillars of Creation?” Dust. A big cloud of dust. How big? You see that pillar on the far left? It’s four light years long. That means that light – the fastest thing in the universe – would take four years to cross it. It would literally stretch from the sun to Proxima Centauri which is our closest neighbor (and that’s just that one finger).
Now, imagine if the solar system were to bumble into one of these clouds.
At first, the result would be pretty. Strong auroras, shooting stars, and a brilliantly sci-fi night time view of reds, yellows, and blues. Of course, those of us enjoying this sight would also notice something a little more ominous – it would be colder. Much colder.
Ever wonder why pictures of our galaxy show a bright nougat center, but from our vantage point on Earth, we never see it? The answer is dust… there’s a big dust cloud blocking our way. This dust (now in our own system) not only blocks precious light, but heat from the sun as well and, within a few months, maybe weeks, we would have a Snowball Earth. Literally, everything on Earth would be frozen – land, seas, and everything that called them home save for a few simple organisms. It would be so cold that even clouds would disappear as there would be no gaseous moisture in the air to sustain them.
This isn’t just some crackpot theory on global cooling or anything, there is actual physical evidence that a Snowball Earth happened at least once more than 650 million years ago. There’s strong evidence of glaciers near the equator and tropics, drop stones (rocks dropped into the ocean by glaciers) where they shouldn’t be, and even geological glacial footprints in places glaciers should not exist.
Snowball Earth is the exact reversal of Global Warming, only now, the freezing of Earth is something that can’t be stopped. Once the polar ice starts to grow, the ice reflects more heat back into space making the planet even colder until the Earth is a still ball of ice which nothing can live on.
So what happened? Why aren’t we still a Snowball?
We can thank volcanoes for that for although the Earth froze, volcanoes continued to spew out greenhouse gases into the atmosphere until the ice melted and evolution had to basically start over again
It happened before, it could happen again. After all, in the words of the great Martha Stewart, “Dust… it’s everywhere.”
1. The Universe Could Explode at Any Minute
Oh yes, dear friends, even the very universe you live in wants to kill you twice.
Imagine that the vacuum in space is an Electrolux. It’s cheap, not that great, but it does what it’s supposed to do most of the time. The Electrolux, as everyone knows, is the worst vacuum cleaner on the market and, lurking out there and waiting to be discovered either through natural or artificial means (particle colliders), is a Kirby Sentra. As soon as this Kirby Sentra appears, the entire universe suddenly says, “Hey, why am I using this Electrolux!?” and suddenly switches to Kirby. In an explosion that travels at the speed of light, the false vacuum we have known and enjoyed since forever is violently replaced with a true vacuum that pretty much destroys everything everywhere.
If that’s scary, there’s also the possibility that all of existence could fail and by fail, I mean fall apart. Literally, every atom would fly apart with no warning and no reason. The odds of this suddenly happen are so remote, that you can say that there’s an equal chance that the Earth could grow three heads and start singing showtunes, but the fact that the possibility exists at all, that it could happen — or is happening with an explosion heading our way at the speed of light right now — should be enough to keep you awake at night.