I was thinking the other day about the End Of The World. You might suggest to me that it's a healthy thing to think about, either because human advancement is speeding the planet's demise, or perhaps because it's helpful to meditate from time to time on one's own mortality, but I have to admit that my particular line of thinking was more whimsical than all that. Assuming that the world will end at all (and I think it will), how it happens will probably be pretty interesting to whoever happens to be around at the time that time ceases to be. Sure, perhaps the Universe will continue on its merry way without us being there to watch it, but what's the point in thinking about time when there are no more people to watch the clocks? People theorize a great deal about what happened before humanity existed, and how long it may have taken, and that's an interesting and hopefully humbling thing to study. But what about time, and the Universe, after humanity's cosmically (comically?) brief existence? It's somewhat less compelling, really. I was somewhat surprised at myself to reflect that whenever the subject came up, either when I'm thinking about it alone or discussing it with others, there are certain doomsday scenarios which are infinitely more desirable than others. After further reflection, I determined that there is what appears to be an inverse relationship between the probability of a given cause of The End and its desirability. Perhaps you've observed the same thing yourself, but I suspect that instead you've spent your time thinking about things that actually matter, and have given it very little thought. How fortunate for both of us then, that you should stumble upon this inter-net web-log, dedicated almost entirely to the study of things that (probably) don't matter.
Now then, for my money, the best possible ways for the world to end are (in no particular order):
1. Interstellar war (or something). I don't think that space aliens actually exist, but if they do, I think it would be pretty awesome if they destroyed us. Something like the beginning of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be pretty much ideal, though I guess it wouldn't constitute war per se.
2. Human error (of the awesome variety). If you have to go somehow, you could do a lot worse than to be done in by science. Our best hope for this right now, as far as I know, is the existence of the Large Hadron Collider. Of course, the fact that the LHC's creators have assured us that it's perfectly safe would only contribute to the awesomeness here, in the event that they're horribly, horribly wrong. Hopefully they would get to say something like "Ye gods, what have we done?" right before the earth is engulfed in a black hole. Freakin' sweet.
3. Asteroids (on the rocks, but hold the Bruce Willis). This is (I think) more likely than #1 or #2, and as such is somewhat less desireable. It's also been the subject of a couple of really bad movies, which doesn't help its case. Still, as far as doomsday scenarios go, it's pretty cool.
Now then, on the completely pedestrian, undesreable side of things, we have:
1. Global pandemic. Unless it comes from outer space and turns us into flesh-eating zombies first, there's pretty much nothing cool about everyone on earth dying of some mutated form of Smallpox. It's also on the "relatively likely" side of thigns. It's too normal. Too square.
2. War that has nothing at all to do with space aliens. Let's face it, people are pretty good at destroying one another in ridiculously uncool ways. It's pretty believable that Armageddon could happen this way, and I have no reason to believe that the end of the Cold War has made it significantly less likely.
3. Global Warming. Apparently this is now called "Climate Change," probably because too many Midwesterners have taken to facetiously welcoming the idea of "warming" every single time it snows, and I mention it often enough on this blog that I'm going to start calling it simply ΔC. Now, ΔC finally killing us off is a lot less likely than it used to be, but there are rumors that it wasn't completely defeated in the summer of 2007, and is rearing for a comeback. If this happens, I predict that it will be pretty lame.
4. Human error (of the not-awesome variety). This could manifest in any number of ways, but would probably resemble either global pandemic (1), accidental use of WMDs (2), or boring old ΔC (3), all of which, as discussed above, would be lame.
Anyways, those are my two lists. What are yours? The Font of All Human Knowledge has a pretty good list to pick from here, if you're stumped.