Remember the dinosaurs? Once the dominant species on our planet, now just a blip on the enormous time-scale of the Earth. The way they were wiped out is widely debated, but the fact is that they were; and what makes humans any different?
Threats loom over us every day, threatening our very existence. Hundreds of Hollywood blockbusters have shown us the potential threats to humankind, from the silly to the serious. We'll be filtering out the most realistic possibilities which could spell the end for humanity.
It might seem implausible right now, but even scientists have a 'Doomsday Clock' rapidly ticking towards midnight, and guess what happens when that clock hits 12? This clock has been ticking away since 1947 and the time is changed when experts on 'Eschatology' - the study of the potential ending of the world or the ultimate fate of humankind - believe the world is edging towards the brink, be it because of nuclear tensions between countries or climate change slowly destroying the world and our habitat.
Hundreds upon hundreds of people have attempted to predict the end of the world, the first being 66 CE - but we're still here. Reasons for the impending doom of all life has ranged from the return of Christ to the Hadron Collider supposedly being able to turn the entire planet into a black hole. The Mayans had a whole calendar which supposedly predicted the end of the world, ending at precisely 11:11pm on 21 December 2012; another failed prediction to add to the list. But the following are ten current predictions that might actually pose real and imminent threats to the future of mankind.
10 Meteor Strike
Here we are, spinning round and round in Space, but we aren't alone. Millions of asteroids and meteors storm through space at unbelievable speeds, and one of them is bound to impact with Earth at some point, and they do. Hundreds of pieces of space junk, pebbles, debris from old satellites and so on enter the Earth's atmosphere every day, but they harmlessly burn up on entry. Space agencies monitor bodies which could potentially be on a collision course with Earth; finding some meteors which can easily be the size of small villages!
In 2013 the Chelyabinsk meteor crashed down in the south-west of Russia, leaving a massive 1500 people injured and impacting with the force of 500 kilotons of TNT, releasing a terrifying 20-30 times more energy than the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima.
Meteors are an ever present threat, and just over two years ago the news that a whopping 1345 feet meteor is on crash course to Earth was delivered. The expected impact date is 26th August 2032.
Everyone remembers the Icelandic volcano's eruption in 2010, when air travel was suspended for days due to the ash it sent into the atmosphere. In reality volcanoes are nothing like the movies, the lava it spews out is a very small threat on the global scale; the ash it fires into the atmosphere creates a murderous cloud of soot which could easily mean the extinction of the human race.
140 million cubic metres of material were thrown into the atmosphere from this tiny volcano, and we saw how much damage that did to the world. Supervolcanoes exist around the globe, most surprisingly in Yellowstone National Park and they are capable of making an eruption 1000s of times bigger than an average volcano, such as the Icelandic event that managed to shut down half the world's airports.
Don't worry, they never go off... right? Nope, we're actually overdue for an eruption and you really don't want to be around when it happens. The globe will be engulfed in a grip of soot and ash, blocking out sunlight, killing plants, animals and everything beyond that.
8 Global Pandemic
World Counter: 7 billion and increasing rapidly. By 2050 the population will peak at 10 billion and the Earth isn't getting any bigger. Bacteria is evolving, even becoming resistant to antibiotics, creating complex problems out of what used to be an easily curable illness. Look at the timeline of humanity and you can see that this isn't unlikely; in the past huge proportions of the human race has been wiped out by sickness or disease and what makes us think the worst days are behind us?
New viruses are popping up all over the world, evolving faster than we can find new cures. Even recently an evolved Ebola virus caused the deaths of thousands of people and a never before seen influenza virus recently killed 82 people in China. The high density population of the Earth could leave us kicking the bucket not long after a deadly new virus pops up.
7 Solar Flares
Little is known about why solar flares happen, but they're basically explosions on the surface of the sun, sending off extreme heat and dangerous particles towards Earth. According to astronomers studying them, the Sun could send off a solar flare towards Earth with the power of 10 billion Hiroshima bombs...that's right, 10 billion. However even smaller eruptions from the Sun could cause the end; they mess with Earth's natural magnetic fields, inducing huge electric currents on Earth.
Man's reliance on electricity and automated systems will render us helpless in the time of the apocalypse, anything using electricity will be shut down, and god forbid, the internet. Diseases that were thought to have left behind us will resurface due to interference with sewer systems, causing widespread disease and illness on top of the mountain of problems this would already cause.
6 Mass Insanity
As crazy as this may sound - pardon the pun - the World Health Organisation reckons that 500 million people will have depression and it will be the second biggest killer in the world.
A number of factors, including increased lifespan, increased loneliness and dramatically decreasing air quality could wreak havoc on the brain. Suicides, riots and loss of productivity could cause the planet to come to a gradual halt and descend into madness.
Sounds like a pretty scary world.
5 Nuclear War
Just one little button can end the world. The world's superpowers have a combined arsenal of 19,000 nuclear weapons, enough to annihilate the world a few times over. The harsh reality is that ordinary citizens can do very little about it.
Just 9 nations in the world possess these doomsday weapons that can wipe out an entire city of innocent residents, rendering the area uninhabitable for the following hundreds of years.
All it takes is one madman to knock over that first domino the rest are sent tumbling; all out global nuclear war that benefits nobody and can only mean the end for humanity as well as all the other life on board.
4 Alien Invasion
SETI have been scanning the universe for communications from aliens for decades - admittedly, nothing yet, but all it takes is one little message and the possibility of alien invasion becomes a reality.
Although it seems like one of the more unlikely circumstances, there is still a high chance there's other life out there - after all, the Universe is impossibly big. More technologically advanced creatures who can easily manoeuvre space could be out there and might not be friendly, leaving us completely pathetic against attacks; after all, history has taught us that the more powerful have always been hostile to the weaker, less advanced beings.
Countless Hollywood blockbusters have shown us how this pans out, with varying endings. They all have one thing in common however; it always turned out pretty badly for Earth. Let's hope this remains fictional for now.
3 Biological warfare
Human's desire to conquer other populations has tried everything, including using biological agents to kill their enemies. The motivation to be the most powerful may be the cause of the destruction of the human race. In labs scientists create deadly concoctions of the most deadly viruses and genetically engineer or mix them together to make a cocktail of the most devastating plagues to hit humankind.
Recently, a Dutch scientist created a new strain of the flu which killed half a million people in 1918; it leaves the human immune system completely helpless and could cause havoc if it escaped into the outside world.
Viruses that can leap from victim to victim offer a near-zero chance of survival, having been engineered simply to kill as much of a population as possible. Anthrax weapons have historically been used, due to its fatality rate and an extremely contagious nature. Some of the earliest uses of germ warfare involved releasing smallpox into native tribes that had no immunity, leaving them with a 90% mortality rate and the loss of entire communities within months.
2 AI Takes Over
Everyone has seen the Terminator. As unrealistic as it seems, AI could soon become more intelligent than humans and even develop a logical thinking sense, enabling it to be more powerful than a human brain.
As small as it may sound, the Google network learnt how to play basic games flawlessly; the computer was programmed minimally to simply achieve the highest score possible but it began to learn tactics of the game and was soon a master of space invaders, brick breaker and 40 other old school games, despite never having been programmed to play the games. This is a big step - although humans also have the capability to learn how to play games through trial and error and logical thinking, AI is already beginning to organically master games more efficiently than we can.
It seems like a small step, but the fact that this is possible could lead to much greater things. There is natural and very real worry that in the future our computer controlled world could eventually see creations more intelligent and powerful than humans dominate their creators.
1 Climate Change
This is by far the most imminent and serious threats to humanity. Deforestation is happening at the fastest rate ever. Sea levels have risen by 8 inches since 1870. Temperature has increased by 2 degrees in the last 50 years and precipitation has increased 5%. Humans release 37 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment each year. The world is being destroyed at an increasing pace and it's down to us.
The population boom and the continuous burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which trap heat, heating the Earth up and causing countless numbers of problems for the creatures that have precisely adapted to Earth's fragile temperatures over the last billions of years. Soon, flooding will force the 100 million to move further inland, leaving their possessions and lives behind them. Those less fortunate will be murdered by illnesses caused by the air quality and the doomed remaining will be left on a wasteland of a planet.