The End of Time
-source ‘New Philosopher’
The world is going to end. We know that for certain – it’s just a matter of when. At the very latest, the world will end in about 4 or 5 billion years. That’s when scientists estimate the Sun will run out of hydrogen gas in its core, at which point it will begin expanding into a ‘red giant’. That expansion will see the Sun’s surface extend to the current orbit of Mars– swallowing up, and disintegrating, the Earth in the process.
But the world might end for humans sooner than that. Astrophysicist Jillian Scudder says that the Earth may well be uninhabitable within a billion years, due to the Sun becoming brighter as it burns through hydrogen gas. A 10 per cent increase in the Sun’s brightness, says Scudder, would be enough to evaporate the water in our oceans. Even a billion years might be optimistic: in 2018, the Doomsday Clock was set to two minutes to midnight. he clock is a stylised timepiece designed for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as a warning to the public about how close humanity is to destroying the world with dangerous technologies. hat’s the closest the clock has been set to midnight – that is, to the end of the world – since the height of the Cold War in 1953, when the US and the USSR each tested their first thermonuclear weapons.
The recent movement of the Doomsday Clock was largely down to the increased risk of nuclear warfare. But the clock also tracks the risks posed by climate change, and the emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence. So even if we don’t blow ourselves up, it seems there are plenty of other reasons we might not make it to the end of the Earth’s lifespan. Like the limited life of the world’s soil – estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization to be only another 60 years if nothing is done about soil degradation. Or, as Yuval Noah Harari speculates in Homo Deus, perhaps human life will end because we will invent ourselves into something new: godlike beings with super intelligence, the chemical secret to happiness, and immortality.