Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our Solar System's End ( a long time from now)

This artist's impression shows the types of molecules that have been identified in Venus's lower atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere is predicted to become like Venus’s in about 1 million years.
Credit: C. Carreau, ESA
So we’ve got about 1 billion years to get out of town. But it’s difficult to imagine humans surviving for a billion years regardless of the Sun’s evolution. Any number of manmade or celestial events could bring on Armageddon. Probably the highest probability for our destruction would be a comet collision, because comets can come and go unpredictably.

Asteroids would be civilization killers too if we don’t develop the technological wherewithal to deflect them. Manmade disasters could include nanotechnology run amok, plagues brought on by terrorist-engineered super-organisms, or extinction by intelligent machines -- among many other man made disasters yet to be imagined.

The absence of any evidence for intelligent life in space, commonly known as the Fermi Paradox, would suggest that extraterrestrial civilizations are short-lived because they easily succumb to natural or technology-induced catastrophes, otherwise they would have stopped by and visited us by now. The vast age of our Milky Way allows more than enough time to star-hop across the galaxy at a fraction of the speed of light.

But let’s be wildly optimistic for a moment and assume that humanity will have the stability, cultural tenacity, and technological prowess to hold onto our planet for the next billion years.

Knowing that our world will inevitably succumb to the Sun’s evolution, a far advanced civilization on Earth could undertake an extraordinary engineering project to keep Earth inhabitable for the next 5 billion years.

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